A Big Slim Indian Wedding and the lessons I learned

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Yippee! Wedding invitation. Let’s roll!

Not exactly my reaction when I get it.

For starters, it throws all my routines out of the window and then the noise just keeps increasing and the…

Enough with the rant.

This time was different.

A few weeks back, I was invited to a typical Indian wedding. And I was excited.

I was excited given it was my best friend’s sons wedding.

And it was for three days only. Only?

Well, a lavish wedding nowadays is spread over five days and can be more.

So this is where the slim starts.

I had misgivings on how raucous it would be. But, turned out it was great fun.

Lots of laddoos, assorted ceremonies and dance later, as I was nursing my tired bones, I realized that not only was it the most organized wedding I had experienced, it was one of the most organized events I had seen.

Here’re the impressions that I came back with:

Cool as cucumber

My friend (Groom’s dad) was cool throughout. I finally on day two asked him. “you don’t look a shade worried and are very cool. What is the secret?”

He said “Early on I realized I am not able to do this all by myself. I identified team leaders and gave them charge of various activities. Hence I can make the most of this.”

The D word popped in my mind.

Delegation.

I have always observed this quality in the most successful people. They know that for their effective functioning, they have to delegate.

Many years back, when I started my working career, I used to micro-manage everything and used to be very stressed, trying to be on top of everything. It also took its toll on my health very fast. I learned this lesson by looking at my colleague who seemed effortless in what he worked. The key: Delegation. Those days we were product managers, so we did not have anyone reporting to us. He still managed to delegate, even upwards!

What should you delegate? Is there a method?

Rory Varden talks about this in his book Procrastinate on Purpose. He talks about how successful people manage to Create Time. That’s right, Create Time! By always being clear about their priorities and then giving oneself five permissions, they clear out tasks and focus only on those items which generate the maximum impact.

Gary Keller in his book The One Thing calls it Focusing Question:

What is the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything will be easier or unnecessary?

Once this is identified, your management of time becomes easier, and you don’t waste time on unnecessary activities. This focus also paves the way for identifying people who you will delegate the work.

Do You need a Lion or an Elephant?

An interesting insight which my friend shared was how he shared work amongst the team leaders.

One of the biggest aspects of an Indian wedding is the food. After many years, people in India may not remember the specifics of the wedding but will remember if you served great food or just ok.

My friend got someone who loves his food (and talks with great relish) to be in charge of the Food.

But for clearing all the bills and payments, he asked his friend (who is a CFO in his day job) to manage it.

He similarly allocated the various tasks like Guest co-ordination, room planning, etc. depending on their strengths. What genius!

Delegation is complete only when the projects or tasks are allocated depending on the person’s strengths.

Some are good at overall project management while others love to get into details. Some like to be with teams and energizing and inspiring them; others like to work alone and do a lot of strategic planning.

By playing to the strengths of people, each one feels fulfilled with the task and is naturally doing his best. Even an obstacle seems very much part of the way, and they easily surmount it.

But all this work starts with first asking for help.

Can you help me, please?

The unspoken aspect of Delegation is Asking for Help.

Quite often, people struggle in this. Either they think it beneath them to ask for help, or they feel shy asking for help.

Asking for Help is a critical part of Delegation.

It is an acknowledgment that “I cannot do everything and I need help.” It is also means acknowledging that other people maybe better than me doing that work.

Asking for help also means enlisting their time and effort.

I have to be respectful of other people’s time and effort. Once I ask them for help, and they agree, I need to spell out the exact output which is expected.

They can make their judgment of how much they can commit to it. Delegation does not mean dumping work on people but being respectful of their abilities and time.

After that, I must be ready to surrender the task to them completely. No looking over the shoulder!

If I continue looking over the shoulder, then I will defeat the entire purpose of this exercise and waste time further. Off course, certain milestones and quality parameters need to be agreed in advance so that when the planned review comes up, it is a clear, logical conversation rather than an anxiety filled performance appraisal.

This agreement makes sure that there is a smooth flow in the project.

Like a gentle flowing river

I was struck by how over the three days everything was just flowing. Smoothly.

Often rigid deadlines invoke anxiety prone and stressed results. While some milestones are non-negotiable, we often focus too much on reaching the destination than the journey.

I remember in my Innovation Stage Gate calls (project evaluation calls), the project sponsors and Gatekeepers would always focus their questions on the process and how we got there while the project members would focus on what was delivered.

The journey is as important if not more than the destination.

Why so? Isn’t business about results and delivery? It is. But, there is more to it.

If we focus only on deadlines, we will miss the learnings which come our way.

This emphasis is especially so about Innovation projects. They are designed to maximize learning. At each stage, the gatekeeper wants to know what have we learned which gives us the confidence that we need to proceed to the next stage. It is never about the reaching the gate milestones.

Some of the innovation questions to ask are:

  • With a new product or service, we want to know whether the customers are excited by them? If yes, why so. If not, why so?
  • Are the suppliers confident of incorporating this new line within their supply schedules?
  • Is the production team prepared to add this extra line of production?
  • Is your front end equipped to explain and deliver this new product or service? Do they have the required skills to deliver this?

Organization needs to maximize the learning during this journey so that the rest of the process becomes smoother. When departments are working seamlessly, and people are clear about what they want to do and how to do it, it is as if the entire organization is in a flow.

This flow has to be ensured by the Senior Leadership

Let’s dance together

One of the behaviors I noticed in the wedding was how the families from both sides were joined at the hip.

They were working seamlessly to make sure that all the guests had a great time and at the same time, the main wedding went off smoothly.

The smoothness could happen because the seniors on both sides of the family were clearly working together as a team.

This is so true in business. The senior leadership needs to be completely in sync with what needs to be done and how it is to be done.

A critical aspect for this is the Alignment Mindset

I talk about this in my book Stop Reset Start.

When the seniors or managers leading the teams are aligned, then, it helps people down the line to know exactly what needs to be done. There is one voice in the organization and one direction. This alignment then helps in the subsequent planning.

How much Planning would three days of wedding require?

Seven months.

For seven months, my friend and his friends in the team had meticulously planned and executed all the details.

Projects which are clearly designated esp Innovation projects, how much time is required may be obvious. But I would say for any consumer-facing event whether it is a new campaign or a refreshment in the product or service line, the same rules of planning apply.

Does this mean everything should take seven months or more to plan and execute? Absolutely not.

It does mean that for any customer facing work, Planning for the execution is critical. Often, planning is done at objectives level and then the details are left to various departments to figure them out.

Each task at heart has a question: Who will do what by when by how much (money, time, effort)?

An overall Project Management Office often helps in having an overall picture of the different projects running in the organization and esp the interlinkages.

This picture of interlinkages is why for Innovation projects, it is a must to have a shared project team which meets virtually and charts how the different moving parts are coming together.

Knowing how everything is playing out also means that people are not anxious but are relaxed and in fact, having fun while doing their work.

Let’s have some fun

It is obvious that the guests at the wedding had a lot of fun. But, what about the hosts? In Indian weddings, I have often seen the hosts and the bride and bridegroom rushing from one ritual to another activity, and often they look completely stressed in the midst of all the joy which everyone else is experiencing.

Not this wedding. The hosts were singing and dancing and smiling throughout.

With complete alignment amongst them and clarity on who is doing what, they could enjoy what was happening around them.

Businesses often forget that work is an emotional experience.

It need not be all serious and dreary meetings and gloomy workplace which make a graveyard seem like an EDM party.

Employees need a sense of fulfillment.

They need to engage with the company and its purpose.

This engagement makes work seem fun and people are always willing to give more.

While a lot of focus is given nowadays to how the workplace should look esp in the startup world, there is a growing interest and acceptance of the need for engagement of the teams and the employees.

It is when people are happy and look forward to coming to their work; it becomes a joy, and it flows through the organization.

 

While I may have added a few inches by all the food I ate and the late partying, I feel lighter with the joy and happiness which I experienced not only for myself but my friend and his extended family.

If you liked the post, do share the joy with your friends.

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