Monday, April 27, 2009

Day 2: On A Monday

I had a rather lazy Sunday, despite planning to do a number of things beforehand. I finally heard from India - a meeting I was trying to set up for selling a particular territory franchise will finally happen between 30Th and 5Th - which effectively means that I am travelling next weekend. The prospect of immediate travel made me focus on household chores, which I never get to do. I love travel, I still do - but I think I try to do too much these days in travelling, saving money on flights and hotels and compressing my itinerary so much that I don't have to spend much money. This was okay about 20 years back, when I was 20, but now it is really catching up with me.

I did read, and find that exercise enlightening. I am reading Geert Hofstede's Culture and Organizations, a short paperback synthesis of his seminal Culture's Consequences. This is an extremely interesting read as I learn about the methodologies behind the derivation of Hofstede's dimensions. I also read and reflected upon the five dimensions of culture - Power Distance or Deference to Authority, Collectivism vs Individualism, Masculinity vs Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance and the new dimension, Long Term vs Short Term orientation. I could contrast my experiences of Britain and India, and found many of the observations as true as it could be. Of course, Hofstede talks about regional variations under an overarching national culture, though I do think it is the job of Indians to explore their regional cultures further and work out suitable strategies in the organization for recruitment and people development.

Hofstede's book was useful to me for another reason. For past two years, I have been trying to adopt an English Language curricula for India. The curricula we use is very European, though I like its approach and it completeness. However, I could now see - from Hofstede's framework - where a possible issue could arise. India, a high Power Distance culture, has a different culture in the classroom, where the tutor leads the agenda and what gets transferred is supposed to be teachers' wisdom, not impersonal truth. The English curricula we have is fundamentally an assisted curricula, where the student is supposed to take the lead, ideally suited for a Low Power Distance classroom. As I have found out before, it is hard to shift the responsibility of learning on the students. Further, as the book tells me and I reflect, we must first get our tutors out of Guru mode to achieve what we are planning to achieve. This is a task for us, and I am sure this will take connecting up with tutors and bringing them on board. We have so far done very little on this and some work must go in here before I move on. This whole reflection/ thinking gave me a fresh new perspective and a new to-do item on my already overcrowded list.

This thought also leads me to think afresh about how we do training in the Philippines, which is a high power distance culture and we have so far been trying to promote an assisted learning course. Also, Poland, which we are just about getting started on - though this is an European country and not covered in Hofstede's study, one can presume its long agrarian history and years under socialist rule will have an influence, and it will maintain its high power distance culture at least in the classrooms.

I have almost finished five years in the UK now and it is time for me to go ahead to apply for an independent leave to remain. Which really means that I have to go ahead and give an exam - which covers British life, customs and everything else - and I must do it in the next few days.

Someone also pointed out that I have shifted my goals and execution modes slightly since the beginning of April. I had set up a three month plan just after coming back to UK in the beginning of the month, but since then shifted my goals and started this new 100 day agenda. Indeed, lots of things have changed since. First, now that I have taste of what working in Kolkata is like, I wanted to live a little while longer in the UK and sort out what I do, rather than returning soon and without a clear plan.

Second, I am definitely leaving by the end of August, as I have resolved to study for an year after that. This makes my job at hand quite urgent, as I want to restructure the whole international operation in a network of self-sustaining partners, who will have enough margins and capability to run these local businesses. This will be quite a shift from my initial plan of a centrally controlled franchise network. This will not only mean that I develop a profitable business model for these partners - I have to train these business partners and transfer as much know-how as possible for them to pull this by themselves.

Third, of course, I shall now put my dissertation work on fast track. I have time till 15Th September, but I have not done much so far, and I must get this done and dusted before I leave this current employment and start a new life. So, that gives me ideally till 31st July, because I am sure I shall subject to quite a gruelling handover, just because there is no clear line of succession set up despite my advance notice.

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