Game of Theories: How Not To Be Played Down

If you have been following Prison Break, a popular US TV series, then you would know about the latest season which has come out after a very long time.

 

Well, watching the series this time, I never thought I would come across something which would intrigue me so much and so instantly. It is something which Sara discusses with (her husband) Jacob in relation to Michael, and he says it is a classic Game Theory approach.

 

Made Me Wonder, What This Game Theory Is?

Been in existence for over six decades, was originally thought to be related to zero-sum game – where one gains at the loss of other. However, it’s now an umbrella term referred in relation to logical decision making.

 

Seems like a lot of effort and research has been carried out over the years, which has resulted in various situations and fields in which this theory has been applied and evolved.

 

We All Start With “Imperfect Information” …

As I start reading the different types of game theories, I was astonished to learn, although these are mathematical or economics based models, these can prove to be lifesaving in real life situations. And, how being knowledgeable about such theories can help you identify potentially un-friendly tango [military term used for target or opponent].

 

In a world full of deceptive people, it’s almost unlikely to attain all or complete information, which is correct or perfect – resulting in favourable outcome. Most of the games/situations, thus, are played with imperfect information, from the onset.

 

In A Perfect World …

In a perfect world, there would be one controller or dictator who would hold all the cards and would know the outcome. Seldom, is the case!

 

Therefore, till a decision or an outcome is reached, think of it as a continuous game which feeds on the outcomes of many players, who may or may not be set in motion by the one calling all the shots or actually playing the game.

 

Lifesaver!

Moments back, I mentioned these theories could be lifesaver. Let’s see how?

 

Whether you are hiring a person, making a business deal, or presenting your case – knowing as much about other person or company would be beneficial. That’s a given, whenever we go out for an interview, isn’t it?

 

Whether that information comes handy or not, the moral advantage it gives you, can’t be matched. Moreover, at a higher level, it’s the leverage you have on other person which decides which way the deal or negotiation would go.

 

The Cooperative and Non-Cooperative game types would tell you that your chances of success would improve considerably if you are able to form alliances; doesn’t matter if they are with mutual agreement or enforced.

 

With the assumptions and the need of bargaining power over others eliminated, that’s two less things to worry about.

 

Still… In a business, where things can get uglier than your imagination, it’s advised to still have that bargaining power; humans are unpredictable!

 

In order to reach a goal, we break the whole journey in to smaller milestones. And, the outcomes would densely depend on the outcomes of the strategies devised for these milestones. If these milestones are people dependent then it’s asymmetric, and if the people can be replaced in a way that only outcome matters then it’s symmetric game play.

 

“A symmetric game is a game where the payoffs for playing a particular strategy depend only on the other strategies employed, not on who is playing them.” – Wiki

 

Keeping a holistic view, these theories should guide you to take an educated course of action.

 

It is one thing to be uninformed, and another to be informed. Then again, what you do with that information or the lack of it, decides the outcome.

 

First, you use them to get relevant information, and then, you use that information to get to them! ~ P.R.

 

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And Your 9 Minutes Start Now!!

Glancing through the top stories on my twitter, I came across a much unexpected item; “Tax workers in Australia have refused to extend their day from 4.51 to 5pm – what could you do with an extra 9min at work?” That’s somewhat absurd, I thought. Firstly, that’s an odd bit of time to close your day, and secondly, I was unaware that people in Oz worked till 4.51pm. My initial thought was to ignore it and move on to other things. But then, I couldn’t keep it out of my mind for long. I know there could be many things which a person can do, however I came up with these (not in any sequence)

  • The most impactful thing which I’ve seen off lately is the executive orders being signed by US president. If you are at an important role, it might be enough for you to pass an order or a decision.
  • A customer service representative could help a customer with his concern, who must have waited more than that to get through to someone who could help.
  • Professionals working hard could take client calls, discuss issues, and provide information on which they have worked throughout that day.
  • A brilliant sales person might need less time, but if he is not able to convince the potential customer in less than 9 minutes then the chances are he might not be able to do it, at all.
  • If you follow most watched sports like baseball, cricket, or football then you must know how each minute could play out. Roughly 3 pitches or an over could be bowled in that time. On your best day, a team could score a goal in 30 sec. So, 9 minutes could change a match’s outcome completely.
  • For a patient, who has had an attack or has been shot, 9 minutes could become a matter of life or death. The response time for a medicine or time before an organ fails is generally less than that.
  • The brave soldiers, who tirelessly fight and put themselves at harm’s way, 9 minutes could mean getting backup team or an air support when they are about to advance to enemy’s post.

These are some of the things which one could achieve in 9 minutes or less. Understandably, these are subjective or situational scenarios which you might not come across every day. However, one should not underestimate the importance of every minutes and what can be achieved during that time. I personally feel, it’s not only time but the will to complete a task at hand which makes the difference. Yes, it’s end of day and you have to catch a bus or a train back home, or drive miles away steering through traffic. However, the work which you’ll complete in those 9 minutes or somewhat more would save you nearly an hour when you come in the next day!

All of us try and plan our day’s work, but there are times when it just spills over. Situation beyond control stays as it is. But, if there is something which you can achieve during the day then aim for those extra minutes, wherever possible. The sense of achievement, might not be noticed or rewarded, at least you’ll have a peaceful sleep.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ~ Michael Altshuler

 

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How Not To Lead Into Deadlock

Have you worked in an agile environment?

Adaptable, flexible, and adjectives like that are common when you look for a job or talk to people. Everyone’s got the role and responsibilities defined. However, we do tend to overlook them when needed or to say when we are lazy.

Recently, I came across a situation where the team was behind schedule by a mile and they needed to get the impediments out as quickly as possible. Funny thing is, people may forget about the common goal they’re working towards, they never forget to play the blame game. It’s never easy to work with team across geographies, with varied cultures. So, instead of resolving the issues at hand, the teams involved started this ping pong of passing the work/blame over to other team. And when asked about the status, the teams responded they are analysing the issue and everything is working fine at their end but it’s the other team who needs to fix at their end. So if two systems are working fine individually but not when they are integrated, then whose territory is the integration? Ummm.. Obviously, it’s both the teams’.

It’s like those situations where without the handshake, the meeting never happened! The simplest approach at this time would have been for both the teams coming together and resolving it. But, due to their time differences, approach differences, and failure to identify this need: the meeting never happened. Amidst, all this the team who was responsible for verification was blocked. In spite of checking every possible scenario, working with all the tools at hand, and speaking to different technical teams; it was a deadlock!

After days of waiting, planning and re-planning, the teams were forced to make time for THE call. Didn’t matter if one is on earth and other on moon, if one is sitting in office late at night or coming too early; the meeting was absolutely necessary!

Where’s the wall with “Bang Your Head Here” written all over it?!

Someone, please shoot ’em all!! The call, which went on for around 45 minutes, made it clear that there were certain changes required at both ends to make the code work. And just like that we all had an understanding of what needed to be changed and an agreement, at last!

This situation led me back to three principles which are long forgotten,

  1. You don’t always have to move mountains, you can go around them – every problem doesn’t need a complex solution. A very basic or simple idea can do wonders
  2. Although, he should but it’s not always a project manager’s duty to intervene and resolve issues like these – anyone can take that step and be authoritative. Authority comes by being knowledgeable and analytical, not only with designation or title.
  3. Learn to put your personal agendas aside, there are times when project’s goal/client needs take the pilot seat.

There’s a very deep meaning to it, but if you can decipher it then you may lead a better life than others.

 “You grow together, you lead in a group; alone you can think of being whomsoever, but it will not turn in to reality!” – P.R.

 

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There Is A Motivation In Demotivation

#How Managers Can Demotivate Team

After a long period of negotiations the project is won. The plan is put in place, the team is decided, and the work commences. Numerous hours are put in and people work day-in day-out without complaining. Even if they do complain, at times, they are made to realise the importance of the project and criticality from the client’s view. Not everyone is the same, so there are managers who will like to micro-manage their team. There might be many reasons for this, however the most prominent is the fear of being looked upon as less competent or to match up against the expectations of superiors. In few cases, the person really has a twisted mind and has a burning itch to control others.

These know-it-all will quash your ideas as they feel challenged, they will shift blameon you, and pretend to help you by guiding you to do thing their way. In an essence, they need a puppet or a toady whom they can control without making it too obvious. Once they have such people under their command then it’s no more a fair game for others who try to fight it out on the grounds of merit. If someone is blindly following them then they’ve to do something for them in return, to keep them sticking. So, merit goes out of the picture and certain bias comes in to play. The best part is, they will make it look as if merit was the main reason behind their actions. Some other ways in which such peopledemotivate others and spread venomous feelings all around – giving false hopes, making you work against unrealistic deadlines and expectations, and always finding a way to put you down. Their biggest strength is the way in which theymanipulate others to do things and keep themselves out of anybody’s imagination, so nothing leads back to them.

# How To Be A Good Employee

So when you walk in to the office, with all the confidence you could reflect, always keep your head straight and be passionate about your work, yet be humble at the same time. Being ambitious is good but one needs to be respectful towards others as well. Newton’s third law in quite intriguing when applied to one’s life. Your every action will bring along a reaction: like a boomerang. Acquaintance, colleague, or a work friend: they all have their importance in your growth. You’ll be surprised to see how an unconditional act of helping others will return manifold when you least expect it. While one bad deed with dig craters for you. People around you are your best promoters. Choosing the right experience, from previous jobs, and the values which you have learnt from your loved ones help you become what you are or will be in future.

However, there may come a time when you’ll be overlooked and not appreciated, in spite of you rising beyond everyone’s imagination and expectations, always being there in the need of the hour, and efficiently working on every project the organisation puts you in. Situations may arise when you will be dropped for people with less experience. But, there is a learning from every story which takes place in your life.

No one is perfect, so learning should never stop. Sooner or later, you shall find an organisation or a manager who would appreciate you and your work and be unbiased towards you. Your qualities will stand you apart, anywhere you go. As I read in one of the blog, you should acquire the characteristic of a rubber ball in you. When you are pushed towards ground, you let your feelings collect within your body and then you channelize them to bounce back; rather than cracking.

“You can either learn to become like you have been treated or learn to become the exact opposite. At least, have a conscious thought over it and have a pretty good reason for it. Otherwise, it’s not worth the effort.”

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How Not To Work And Get Promoted

We are often faced with people who we think are not good enough, or deserving of the promotion or success they get. We start comparing ourselves with them. And, even after thinking things a million times in our head we fail to connect the dots, and frankly, find no one more deserving than us.

Then again, we all have, at some point or the other, labelled people as technically strong, who really work hard, day-in day-out and have gained the expertise to move to next level. The next in line are people, known as opportunists, who work hard just before the promotion cycle or any opportunity coming their way. Then there are people marked with deceptive skills, also known as cunning, who know the art of getting things done from others rather than doing it themselves. At a similar level, there are some who are rather ingenious and take all the credit for work done by others. Last but not the least, are the sycophants or the yes-boss types who surround their superiors all the time and cloud their judgement.

Amid this mentation and labelling, we never see beyond the walls of our minds which are painted with biased opinions and, to some level, jealousy. Isn’t it obvious… that despite having no technical capability or any other skills, which we thought the person (who was promoted) lacked, he/she did something which we were oblivious to?

As Pat Riley once said, “Being ready isn’t enough; you have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.”

And preparation in this case means doing that one bit, which stands you out from the crowd. Imagine a case where a person gets three things (perhaps a shirt) from a shop for you. The first one gives it to you as-is, just in the bag in which he got from the shop. The second one wraps it in a paper, but you could feel or guess what could be inside. The third one, puts the gift in a box and wraps it nicely with gift wrapping sheet. Honestly, out of these scenarios you would be most interested or curious about the third gift, I’m hoping. In the first two cases, you somehow know what you might be getting. However, in the last case you are intrigued and impressed by the looks of it.

Think of you as a commodity and your skills as features of that commodity. The more sellable or presentable you are, the better chances you have of growth. Everyone, who has been promoted, has either got it because they were good at what they did, or they made others believe they were good at what they did. It’s how things are presented! As I would like to say, it’s not the trade (you are in), it’s the trademark (you have).
Now, I’m most certainly not suggesting that you stop working, but start honing the additional skills, often known as soft skills. Going by the Pareto principle, one could argue that the people (who were promoted) did 20% of actual work and 80% of the time was spent in promoting or elaborating the importance or the amount of the work they did.

Conversely, for every 80% of work one does, he/she should spend 20% marketing about it. This means your work should be made visible to important stakeholders. A few motivation speakers would suggest that you take up any work which involves 20% application and 80% learning. Putting it in numbers would actually be subjective!

“I determine to render more and better service, each day, than I am being paid to render. Those that reach the top are the ones who are not content with doing only what is required of them.” ~ Og Mandino

 


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The Vicious Circle Of Appraisal Cycle

For months now I have worked till late at night”, I thought. “This is not right!”, “I had a discussion with you”, “You said it’ll be done this time”, were some of the flashes I used to get since past few weeks. These were some of the statements which I’ve had with my supervisor, or I wished I never have to say. Was it raining outside, or was I sweating? I couldn’t possibly tell, until I woke from a bad headache in the middle of the night; only to realise it was a bad dream. But why? I couldn’t stop cursing the current situation, it was the time of appraisal cycle in the company. A time similar to gloomy British winter nights where I would often feel chills running through me, have constant butterflies in my stomach, and waiting for the outcome meant being at war with assorted emotions.

Have patience, have faith! Things will be better soon”, said a lot of people. With every passing day, I was getting disheartened. Not only was I losing interest in doing any work, I was letting my emotions overrun me at home too. I thought, “If I had not be doing well at work, someone would have pointed it out”. In spite of getting so many appreciations, being able to perform well, and deliver the work with utmost quality I failed to understand what I was lacking. Was I not deserving? Or, was I not qualified. Of course the answer was “NO!”. Not because I was desperate for it to happen, but I had gained insights from other people as well. Everyone would try and comfort me, tell me all the good things, and praise me. But no one could figure out why my growth had stagnated? Why I have not been promoted for so long?

This is practically the situation with most of us, especially for those who work in private sector firms and have annual or biannual appraisal cycles. Even after putting so much of hard work we fail to get that promotion or annual hike which we have been seeking since long. We can’t stop thinking about the worst feeling when we realise that the manager got us working when he needed us the most, but he would have an excuse or two up his sleeves whenever we would try to talk about our growth. Thinking of it, it’s an appraisal cycle for the manager too. If he is able to get the work done, without having to offer much then it’s appreciated for his growth as well.

So was this all a farce to benefit my manager or supervisor only?

I suppose not…

In my honest opinion, it depends on how well you have set the stage for yourself. Your soft skills should be able to complement your technical skills you. I have seen a lot of people: planning in advance to use their soft skills while they prepare playing ground for themselves, where they can showcase their abilities; genuinely or using deception. The important thing to understand is that any person who has to acknowledge you or your work should be able to make you stand out from the crowd. Only then, will he be able to get convinced and do so with seniors. Either you are doing different things, which no one else is doing; or you are doing things, which everyone else is doing, differently!


Author speaks: I’m not here to change the world; I intend to make an impact on one soul at a time. If you like my work, please press Like, or better yet put a Comment; perhaps a feedback. However, the best appreciation of my work will be to Share this with your friends and your social circles (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, and others).

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There Is A Game Of Thrones In Every Office

game-of-thrones-of-every-office

We all have been there; overwhelmed with emotions and concerns of our family, friends, and neighbours for landing on to a job. The excitement of joining a new (or first) job is priceless. Some do it because they have to (or forced to), while other do it for pure fun; as there long term focus lies somewhere else. Not sure of their capabilities, or what they should pursue, these people are put along with others to learn skills and made to work on the critical project (defend the Great Wall); while facing all sorts of adversities.  Often, they are bullied by their peers (brothers of the Night’s Watch), or seniors for their inability to perform tasks (just like Samwell Tarly or better known as Sam). Once in a while, these people (mostly fresher) are able to pull off a work beyond their imagination. However, their ultimate focus it to become a maestro (pursue masters) and lead a peaceful life.

People like Sam often run in to project lead (like Jon Snow) who protect the team at every instance. Jon, oblivious to the challenges he will have to face, volunteered to join the team out of frustration from previous work, or for making an identity for himself. Despite all the struggles, he is able to make few supporters for himself; people who like his work and thinks he is better qualified to lead them. He knows nothing about management (or the diplomacy required with the job), nor is he aware of his true capabilities. However, he cares for his people and he is able to connect with them on emotional front. Jon can be unknowingly arrogant and naive, and will not be shy to lead his team to danger because of what he thinks is right; against his (unhappy) peers, client UAT team (Wildlings), and client (White Walkers). Somehow, he manages to get help just at the right time.

Every global organisation would have off-shore base (Winterfell) with a project delivery manager (Ned Stark), on-shore or headquarter (King’s Landing) with a client executive (Rober Baratheon) – this is the most sought after position, and the other departments (the remaining Houses). The departments often provide support based on the proximity, or an advantage they may get. For instance, the HR department is like the House of Frey (which rules The Twins and its surrounding lands, controlling the strategically important crossing of the Green Fork); who control the movement of people, or process visa applications. They often weigh their options before taking any action; pretend to support the people in need (like the Starks), but we all know are waiting for an approval from the managers (the Lannisters).

Being an old friend (or protagonist), Ned is forced (at times foreseeing long term gain, or to help with a difficult client) to oblige the king (Robert). At heart, Ned has his best interest for the organisation (Seven Kingdoms) and wants to help Robert the best he can; the trouble starts for him when he tries to find out more details about the processes, and gaps in on-shore ways of working. In order to save, his own team (family at offshore) he falls victim to traps laid by ferocious and competitive programme manager (Cersei), technical manager (Jaime), and others who want to save their secrets, their places, and rule at the on-shore.

If you are able to get in good books of these managers, then you’ll have a sound working environment. Consequently, you may end up like Sansa, or Arya. Sansa (was so eager to go onsite), had no real capability apart from the fact that she was beautiful, and pestered Ned so much that he had to agree. Her luck ran out after reaching onsite because she fails to understand the politics, or the ways of working. She is traded off to different departments/projects, eventually to linkup with her close associates and returns to off-shore. Now her greatest asset is her knowledge about other people, their strengths and weaknesses. Gradually, she learns and becomes bold and starts getting involved in management.

Conversely, Arya never wanted to go onsite but was sent to accompany Sansa. Tempted to learn new skills, she had no interest in matters of management. Her knacks don’t go well with the likes of Cersei and she is made to run away, only to join another firm. Learning from the experiences and loaded with some new skills she makes a comeback.

Morale: There are different people all around us, but their characteristics remain nearly similar. It’s up to us to decide what we want to be, or with whom we want to be. Spotting the friends and foes at the right time can prepare you to keep yourself away from harm’s way. High-born or not, in the end it’s your skills (natural or acquired) which will help you sustain and fend off challenges.

“You need to know it’s your actions that will make you a good person, not desire.” ~ Matthew Quick