A journey through a sliver of the Bible

 A passage through a sliver of the Bible-

Israel – As a first timer, its been a revelation and teaches why I should not listen to the media and other know-alls. Beautiful country and for a population of just over 8 million, the young country but biblical land has so much to offer. If not for the searing temperatures, it could just have been anywhere when you are in Tel Aviv. Then you turn south and go to the ancient port city of Jaffa (or Yafo, as its called), you start the time travel to times of Abraham.

A history of building, invasions, carnage, then the rebuild, development, time and again proves just how resilient the folks are. Tel Aviv is just barely 100, while Jerusalem is well over 4000 years old. Tel Aviv is just like any other modern city and still yearns to grow with its subway under construction and skyscrapers dotting the horizon. For an avid hiker, it’s a dream come true since everything in the city that is worth visiting can be covered on foot while savoring the ambience of the outdoor cafes.

An overwhelming experience to walk through the Biblical history in Jerusalem has to be the highlight. The east part of Jerusalem (Jeru for City and Shalom for Peace) was founded by King David (Of the David vs Goliath fame). The temple mount stands in the middle of the walled city which by the way has just over 40,000 denizens, Armenians, Jews, Muslims and Christians; A perfect harmony of cultures in this microcosm. The city is divided into these four quarters and underneath it all, lies the pathway over which Jesus was crucified and walked to his final destination. I got to see the place where he died, the place where he was anointed and the monument over his tomb. That is truly awe-inspiring.

Another sub highlight is the famous Wailing wall, that used to be a retaining wall of the temple structure. As you turn left of the wall, you see the minaret of the mosque that was built by the Muslim conquestors on the 7th century. The Al-Aqsa mosque also stands proud in the temple courtyard. Everyone from King David, Babylonians, Romans, Muslims, Ottomans, the British, The Jordanians and now the state of Israel has had something to do with this Biblical city.

Then the drive from 3000 m above sea level to 400 m below sea level passing through yet another slice of history and political turmoil, The West Bank to the Dead Sea. The Dead sea, where absolutely no life exists. Wading through it feels like wading through a barrel of oil, such viscosity made worse by the sulphates, bromides , chlorides and other mineral salts that keep it saturated. You could see Jordan on the other side of the Sea and its no picnic being at the beach here except to make sure you could actually float on water.

Visitors and Tourists- Just make sure you pick a cooler time to visit Israel if you can but if you are a sun worshipper, then by all means go for it any time. The Mediterranean beaches are just gorgeous and super lively.

One thing for sure – Never else have I seen a people with a more fierce national pride than the Israelis. They all go to public schools until they are 18, at which point all boys and girls have to compulsorily serve a 2-3 year stint in the military. There is a deep sense of belonging that exudes pride and patriotism.

 

 

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The anatomy of the Baseline

Much has been read and heard about projects losing their shirts due to the Customer. Really? Why does it this keep rearing its head over and over? That cliche, Change in a way of life and it is one of those things that is inevitable. Attempting to find a sorry excuse for your losses under the guise of change may be a subterfuge and in some cases a rookie mistake.

Understanding a few key aspects of what the deal is goes a long way in being cognizant of the details. Ask a few questions-

1- What is the technical scope?

2- What are the commercial Terms and Conditions?

3- Is the scope firm and prescriptive?

4- What exactly is the Division of Responsibility? Who does what?

5- Is there a firm price associated with the above scope?

6- Is there a specific time frame to execute the above scope?

7- Are you going to be penalized if you finish late or is there a bonus clause if you finish early?

Hardly a revelation, but if the Scope, Price and schedule are clearly specified by means of understanding the Contract are truly understood, you are in with a fighting chance. Thus, the understanding of the Baseline is what was just described above.

Now that the Baseline is established, any deviation to the Baseline will constitute a Change. How the Baseline scope is executed strictly depends on you, as long is delivers the product within the framework of quality and safety.  Now its time to execute.

IC-change-managment

 

Always always refer back to the Baseline and whenever you become aware of a Change either due to errors/ omissions or Customer directions, stop and evaluate. This is the point where you make a massive difference to your bottomline. A legitimate deviation from the Baseline must be addressed as you go. Do not wait until the end of project to do a “global settlement”.

This is a trap- Customer unwillingness to keep moving and not recognizing change is a sure sign that you may not get a fair return on efforts. And the global settlement more often than not may end up in disgruntlement all around and repeat business could be impacted. The optimal way manner is to understand the baseline, recognize deviations, address changes and agree on a fair settlement and move on.

 

 

Productivity- Still a conundrum?

Ah- Good old productivity! After having built thousands of plants, the industry keeps struggling with the seemingly simple concept of earnings. Meeting the schedule to make your goals and earn your hours. Simple ? Yes. Easy? No! I am not trying to advertise a silver bullet but rubbing salt into an age old wound in reality.

Food for thought-

  1. Are short term gains with achieving productivity in the construction world hurting our chances of project delivery?
  2. Is a “Finishing” culture absent in the industry? Why are we all so good with Starting somethings and we get caught with our inabilities to Finish?

The Finishing culture is something that will always have a bearing directly on our abilities to deliver something to a downstream customer and also to earn the right hours. Of you think of this as a fishbone with the end game being “Finish” the roadblocks and show stoppers must be identified as soon as they are discovered and this doesn’t involve any fancy software but a basic process of being able to know the decision making chain. Each person in this chain is critical.

3. What drives the worker? Are a good percentage of them just here for a paycheck?

4. Does Data really help? Is Data going to a huge driver and can we actually see this improving productivity?

 A simple footnote- Its always good to earn more than you spend. As simple as that

 

 

 

 

The Human factor vs the Bottomline

With all the nationalistic rhetoric about American jobs for Americans, surprises do not cease on how deep this goes; affecting industries I thought would be insulated. Its probably not a huge deal spewing broad words of wisdom encompassing every business and then the dissection can begin.

Clearly the highly technical lower tier execution work is something the low cost centers in India and China can clearly be banked on. A good directive combined with presence of some leadership in these low cost centers will continue to prove to be the most optimal option. This in my humble opinion can continue to be executed overseas.Good examples of these are detailed designing, optioneering etc.

Now the regular data entry type, discrete work- Do Americans want to do that? You would think they would. If these jobs go to local Americans, understandably it would lead to some increase in costs, but this could be a big win for the local flavor.I would vote lets bring these back to America. Cognizant of what this entails- Bringing back the call center could be a huge visible win for appeasing the locals. The call center has become such a part of the Indian sterotype which has led to  a high degree of discontent and highlighted the indifference on part of major utility companies; a potential key factor in fostering racist tendencies.

Then you get into those low skilled mundane work that may be done by a sweatshop culture for little to nothing; highly repetitive by the book work .These are typically jobs that may still serve the consumer a lot better by staying where they are.You don’t really want your youth to take the east way out and get too comfortable with low skilled jobs that can hardly prepare you for a solid future.

Obviously one size never fits all- You can bolster job growth not just by sheer numbers but by the type of jobs that will facilitate long term development of the human resource in America.

 

The Human element- Leaders & teams

Isn’t it always about people?  The human element is not the one that makes projects tick but the qualities in the humans is what makes it click. Leading, requesting, ordering, cajoling, collaborating are only some of the ways to get it moving.

How about spending may be willing to be a real leader rather than running a project like an Army General. Not saying that doesn’t work. In a perverse way I have had some really great leaders who by virtue of running their teams like a platoon delivered. However I have better memories of working for leaders who collaborated and leaned on their experts to come up with solutions that worked more effectively.

Leadership is not something you inherit by virtue of being a senior person in the organization. These are people who are not demigods nor are they untouchable legends; these are people in flesh and blood that just inspire you in several ways. Inspiration is not something you can touch, its that euphoric feeling of wanting to be part of the team, having that inherent desire to always stay ahead, cognizant and secure in the knowledge that what you analyze, what you recommend is going to be paid attention to. So you are not really part of a count but an integral part of the decision making process. That is the kind of leader that will go far. Not the entitlement, not being gray haired, not being a favorite of someone’s.

Then the teams- How about a working in a team that feels like you are in a microcosm of the United Nations! Every culture brings something to the party. Its that pot luck of ideas and concepts; something every member brings to the table. When team members get to be comfortable in a social setting, political correctness seems like a term from the Martian dictionary. We have all been part of sessions where we get told to respect other cultures; I am not even sure if I need to make any special efforts to do that. A person is a person and if they are able to gel into this polyglot team they are obviously comfortable. It is however a highly interesting concept when team members freely exchange nuances about their culture and its this process that makes the team pull their oars in the same direction. Believe it not, speaking to a non Westerner slowly and loudly still does not work. What works is empowerment and space to perform , where linguistic abilities do not matter.

Then the leader has that uncanny ability to bring out the best out of everyone, no exceptions. I have recently come off working in a team that would be classified not just as multi cultural but truly world class. So what makes me say so? The ability of that team to bring out the best out of each other, the obvious lack of king sized egos backed up by a leadership model that stands unparalleled. A leader who did not have to be the “Know all” but a leader who had the ability to be a supporter in the most adverse situations and yet had the humility to lean on their team to get what they needed to make critical decisions.

And what else? Leaders finding time to deal with their team members as humans, not subordinates. It may be a cliche, but true good leaders are a rarity and I am not even mentioning visionaries.

You have nothing to fear..unless you are gullible

Why do some spurious email forwards , press clippings, TV anchors asking leading questions seem to suggest that I feel like I am living in Nazi Germany. Incredibly naive, hard working people are somehow getting caught in this web of propaganda.

Yes I am in immigrant. I came to this country and have not found a better place to live my life. I have served overseas and that actually makes me appreciate America even more. I love these accents and when you get that uncanny ability to laugh at one self, it is actually hilarious. And I know so many of FOB’s that have made it good and continue to thrive, not because of who they are but despite who they are.

And utmost hilarity, if I am stereotyped of running a 7-11 the person next is me is also streotyped of wearing cowboy boots and 50 gallon hats and so is the other person that just cannot get his “B”‘s right. Believe me it is a fun place to be in. No one is advocating racism, bigotry or discrimination against anyone and that my friends is anathema to all of us.

So do not be led by that Pied Piper who came to you from the extreme left or the extreme right. Let sanity and common sense prevail. God Bless America

Baseline vs Change -As simple as it sounds?

You would think its not big a deal. We read and hear about these Management gurus coming up with some outlandish mantras for successfully executing projects. I am certain some of these, when translated into plain English have produced results. Think about this, if you knew about your scope, schedule and commercial conditions you have actually armed yourself with knowledge of the BASELINE.

Baseline is what you have basically signed up to- What you’re going to build or deliver, when you have to deliver and how are you going to get paid.

Then the inevitable happens- CHANGE. What is Change? Define it as any deviation from the Baseline.

The ability to recognize Change and your ability to attribute and apportion it makes the difference between Success and Failure. Dealing with Change is key to Success.

You will read a whole lot more about this in an upcoming book – BRAVING THE STORMS- MANAGING PROJECTS!