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When to break process – my power tips for success!


Just few days back I was on my way to Hyderabad from Kolkata. The short personal trip was humdrum until a mini argument (with an exciting potential to explode) with a stranger changed the equation.


The boarding was supposed to start at 1:15 pm but even at 1:20 pm, none of the ground staff had any clue as to whether the flight was delayed, canceled or for that matter hijacked!  The flight status display- board was hand-in-glove with them and did a “David Copperfield” on all traces of the flight.  To add to the confusion (and my immense irritation), my fellow passengers were the planet’s most chilled out bunch and seemed unperturbed by the prospect of a missing flight. Hence, I decided to take it easy.

Then they found the plane and the boarding started at 1:30pm. There were three physical separators to make row/seat-wise boarding easy; Seat# 1 to 10, Seat#11 to 20, Seat#21 to 30.  No one seemed to care much about the seat numbering or had the sense to stand in their respective queues. A commotion was impending.

I did the same, as that needed me to spend the least amount of energy to get to the desired outcome (i.e. not to miss the flight.)

After 8 minutes or so, I heard a man (in his mid-30’s), asking an elderly man who was standing beside me, “Sir, are you in the queue?” His tone and that look instantly annoyed me. The elderly man immediately disappeared into the crowd little far behind.  Then the person turned to me and with same annoying tone asked, “Madam, are you are on the queue?” I looked at him but choose not to respond.  He repeated his question. This time, I replied, “No I am not.  There is no Queue”

The guy got angry.

He replied (in a louder tone), “I don’t think so.  I am standing in the queue”.

I understood he was insecure and operated from fear of missing the flight.  I decided to respond back, assuming he would be mature enough to comprehend & reason with my response.

I said, “Assuming you are right, this board states 21-30.  So there should be 9 people in the so called queue.  Do you see 9 or 20+ people here in this imaginary queue?”

He was super annoyed with my reply and said: “I don’t care!”

I decided to give him a second chance & said (very calmly), “I get that.  You can go before me or before anyone else. No one is stopping you but there is no queue

He got super paranoid with my response. 🙁

Anyway, after the brief exchange of words, passengers started moving. I let him go. He was travelling with his mom and dad and they seemed tensed because of their son’s childish behavior.

While walking towards my seat, I was reminded of similar behavior in the #workplace, where people are so bogged down with #process.  I have never quiet understood why process becomes so important versus the end result?  There are 10 different ways of doing or getting from point A to point B and the set process might not be the best one for all situations.  People should exhibit situational #leadership and use process as a reference or guideline. In this situation, the objective was to get to the plane from the boarding area on time.  If the environment and people were able to comfortably manage without a queue, then why impose an invisible queue (or process)? What do you gain out of it? Well, I feel it is an exercise in futility. Moreover, this exercise makes you spend X (enough to give you palpitations) amount of your precious energy!

All right, the story does not end here 🙂

My seat number was 30D (the last seat of the flight).  To my surprise (and utter annoyance), I found the angry man as my co-passenger.  I would not lie; I was mortally infuriated.  Nevertheless, I went to my seat and tried my best to not look at him or in that direction. However, some people just ask for more.  He started shifting in his seat as if he was sitting his living room sofa. That just did it! I lost my temper and had to educate him that he was inside a plane and not in his playpen. He did say a muffled ‘sorry’ but that was of no use.  I replied in an ice-cold voice, “Your sorry does no good.  You better mind your words and actions”. I just loved the scared look on his face and his dad was literally trying to save his adult child through his pleading looks.  It happens in day-to-day workplace when we start questioning on #metrics and #efficiencies vs. following mere #process.  Most of the time, the reply we get is, “my boss would be unhappy if we don’t follow this …” Very rarely I find the objectives are clear with a laser focus on product betterment or business outcomes.

A rather humorous analogy to this was narrated by my friend @Pijush. He was once driving to Aurangabad (Maharashtra) and suddenly, Google Map Navigation asked him to take a detour. Within minutes, he found himself driving through thick paddy field with a muddy track that only tractors can vanquish. Later he found that his navigation was set to “walking” instead of “driving”. He was made to follow the process rather than concentrate on using his own bearings to ignore the detour.

After that process-bashing spree, let me present a different side of the ‘gentle monster’. Process is very important as a ‘frame-working’ tool but as they say, a tool is as good as the person wielding it. Sometimes the same result or outcome can be achieved by following 2 different and distinct processes. This process duality theory is specifically relevant when it comes to managing order and chaos. In some cases, both, order and chaos can co-exist, leading to an interesting situation of controlled pandemonium. If a process is unflinchingly stagnant, then it becomes obsolete with rapidly changing external factors. Process should be evolutionary; it must be continually updated to reflect the changing demands of the culture, business or market and more importantly, it should be a guideline rather than a straitjacket. And it’s no mean feat to walk the tightrope between process and revolt (though some call it out-of-box).

Anything in excess is counter-productive to the original need. When we become enamored and enslaved by process, #leadership and #innovation are the first casualties.

Emotional Courage & Leadership


Has the fear of conflict stopped you in your tracks or has it made you respond when everyone around you is silent and defensive?

Do you inspire action or fall prey to your own defensiveness?

That’s what Emotional Courage or the lack of it does to people. Either it makes them leaders or the lack of it relegate them to mere followers. The enduring approach of being a leader is all about harnessing your Emotional Courage and end up where few people do; A place devoid of distractions and noise – a place where results get delivered. Balance when you stagger, speak up when you don’t want to, take control when things fall apart – at the end emotionally bold leaders will create their own realism!


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook


Top 5 Product Design Strategies

Product Launch Mind Map (5)

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works.” ~ Steve Jobs

Getting from Point A to Point B in the product lifecycle requires an adaptive, structured and innovation-driven approach that organizes all the touchpoints to create a memorable journey. So without much ado, here are what we believe are the top 5 product design strategies:
  1. Strategy that lucidly defines organizational directionThe ideal strategy is a combination of defining the Business, Design and Product Service design strategies. These in essence answers what a business should do (with emphasis on looking beyond the current cycle), decide on what to create (again, stressing on long-term action) and finally on how to create.
  2. Design & Business is an inevitable marriageA superlative strategy evolves when business and design co-habit to create everlasting business impact. It is all about getting the creative and business benefit puzzle come together and speak aloud.
  3. Design First, Technology LaterA design approach can be effectively used as a driver for innovation and Business Design needs to be successful in telling the right story at the right time to the right person. Once the ‘what’ has been answered, the ‘how’ is just how we manage technologies and platforms that hurtle forward around us.
  4. Design Strategy PanoramaThe Design Strategy traverses through the design process elements in a seamless manner that ultimately creates consistency. This process had “Design as Strategy” and “Design as Tactic” at different ends of the spectrum.
  5. Design Strategy is a discipline in motionDesign Strategy is a multi-faceted discipline that is based on context and research, with an outcome based, long term approach.
In Conclusion,
Design drives innovation,
Innovation empower brands,
Brands generate loyalty,
and finally, loyalty helps sustain profits and further innovation!



Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook


Intrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship Dilemma


Though the terms “Entrepreneur” and “Intrapreneur” have existed and been part of the corporate business world for decades, there is still a lot of confusion about how one relates to another. While the two terms are dissimilar, there are resemblances and advantages to both styles in practice.


In its simplest form, most people believe intrapreneurs are internal entrepreneurs who behave in the same ways, have same stimuli, and respond in similar fashion. They couldn’t be further away from reality! Let’s try to break down the differences and similarities.

While both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs share entrepreneurial DNA and have a very deep passion for innovation, they are very different in the sense that they require different set of skill sets to be successful in their respective environments as depicted in the following diagram.


While there isn’t a holy grail achieve entrepreneurial & intrapreneurial greatness, the following qualities are expected for success:


Key Questions to ask yourself if you are in a dilemma which route/role to choose:

  • Can my innovative ideas be implemented internally or do I look out?
  • Would I work under the framework of a large company with its available resources or start on my own from scratch?
  • Is job security very important to me?
  • What’s my appetite for risk?
  • Do I get excited or intimidated by the thought of managing my own business?
  • Can I navigate through the existing culture of the company, or would I want to create my own?

Intrapreneurs get as much of the rewards as entrepreneurs i.e., visibility, power, money, growth opportunities, networks, and most importantly, the opportunity to create something new — without much of the risk – financial bankruptcy, major failure, etc.

Having said that, Entrepreneurship is for anyone who holds the zeal and tenacity to peruse his/her dreams fearlessly. However, it is completely a personal decision if one wishes to play under a pre-built structure/framework or create a roof of their own (and the house as well). Figure out which category you fall into and rock your game!


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook


6 Tips for a Good Night Sleep


Scientifically it’s proven that the things you do right before bedtime can have a big impact on your life. But I feel that it’s a great time to perform a kind of daily ritual because the day is over, it’s relatively quiet and you’re not in a hurry to get things done.

Here are 6 things that I have been doing for several years which definitely have helped me sleep better and wake up in a good mood (read: ready to take on the world, again!) 

Tip # 1

Put on your favorite music

*Bonus: Sing or Dance along, no one is watching 😉

Tip # 2

Clean and moisturize your skin

*Bonus: Spray on few drops of your favorite body mist, close your eyes and mediate for few minutes

Tip # 3

Brush and floss

*Bonus: Look at the mirror & do your mirror talk 😉

Tip # 4

Go over your “To-Do” list for the next day

*Bonus: If you sense it’s going to be a difficult day ahead then sit back for few minutes, imagine the best possible outcome and send out your “All is well” signals to the universe

Tip # 5

Enjoy the fresh air in the balcony for a while, recall the things you are grateful for and thank the universe

*Bonus: Imagine you are an owl and looking over the city 😀

Tip # 6

It’s finally time to turn off the lights and get into story time mode.  Turn on your latest audio book till you fall asleep

*Bonus: Wear your smart watch so that you can see next morning how well you have slept

Do try out some of these & let me know if it worked for you.  If you have a tip to share, then feel free to post it.  I would love to try and experiment.


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook


Personalization Technologies for Political Purposes & Privacy Implications


Christopher Wylie

One of the leading tech giant Facebook is swimming in the hot boiling water with Congress not only over data privacy breaches, but over their role in the 2016 US presidential election.

It’s not a small data breach that we are talking about here –  approximately 5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters.  That’s pretty much all, considering there are ~ 250 million people eligible to vote in US.

How is Trump’s Presidential Election linked with all of these?

The Trump campaign appointed Cambridge Analytica to run data operations during the 2016 election. Steve Bannon, who in due course became Trump’s chief strategist, was also apparently vice president of Cambridge Analytica’s board. The company assisted the campaign to identify voters to target with ads, and gave guidance on how best to focus its approach, for example where to campaign, whom to target & what kind of messages to pursue the targets to have positive psychological impacts to vote for Trump. In other work they helped with strategic political communication using sophisticated data mining techniques.  In the process of doing this, Cambridge Analytica used Facebook ads & apparently acquired the user data in a way that dishonored the social network’s policies.

Here’s a short video from the horse’s mouth – Christopher Wylie:

* Side Information: Christopher Wylie’s tweets on India operations:


Other side of the coin:

It is still questionable if Cambridge Analytica’s proclaimed “psychographic profiling” successfully persuaded people to vote for Trump or implanted misrepresentation about the opposition candidates to bring about political outcomes or it was a mere co-incidence. There is not much evidence that the algorithm actually works with 100% accuracy.

Facebook didn’t directly sell any of it’s users information to Cambridge Analytica.  Having said that, $37 billion was wiped from the value of Facebook in one day and its share price is continuing to fall.  “Delete Facebook”, “Dump Facebook” & similar campaigns are still going strong.

Google surely knows lot more about us than Facebook ever will.  So does Twitter.  So turbulent times ahead for these tech giants as well.

Will these tech giants come out clean? I don’t know. Only time will tell. All I know is business is built on trust, and they are certainly losing public trust. The bigger questions for the policy makers to consider are privacy threats stemming from the use of sophisticated personalization tools for political purposes and identifying their impact on individuals and society as a whole.  I would like to end the post with this thought: “Power comes with great responsibility”


After Zuckerberg hearings, Congress broadens focus to Google, Twitter

All about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and data mining

Cambrige Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie tweets details of India operations


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook


Smart Meetings – As Product Managers, how do you run your meetings with swag?

Smart Meetings

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’ve been to a lot of business meetings over the past 10+ years. These include (and not limited to) customer meetings, product launch meetings, road map meetings, train-the-trainer sessions, knowledge transfer sessions, pricing meetings, sales, marketing, and customer service. The list can go on but you get the drift – it’s a lot of meetings. Many of these meetings have ranged from outright boring to full-on comedy to downright hostile – essentially, the entire gamut.

I have concluded that as a Product Manager, the expertise to handle meetings and take notes is de rigueur. And yet, we all struggle to master this basic skill. The idea is to be fast (and not so furious) with meetings and write clear, concise and actionable meeting minutes with tangible outcomes.

In this article, I have tried to put together a few things that I have learnt and practice myself to beat the deluge of meetings.

Ground Rules:

  • Be on time
  • Set the agenda and allocate time for each item
  • Present your points clearly and pay attention to everyone’s points
  • Don’t shy away from asking questions
  • If still not sure, repeat your understanding or question
  • If things go off-track, politely ask people to take that topic offline and shepherd everyone to the agenda items.

Cheat Sheet for clean, actionable Meeting Minutes:

Keep the following in mind before sending meeting minutes:

Let’s now see a sample:

Meeting Date: 11/12/2017 14:00

Location: Skype – Conference ID: 9478230  PIN: 5345

Title: Bi-weekly Product Review – Product Management (8am RR / 2pm Ireland / 6:30pm India) – 11/12/2017

Hi Folks,

The meeting notes and links are below. Please let me know of any questions or concerns.




  •   Participant 1 (Meeting Organizer)
  •   Participant 2
  •   Participant 3
  •   Participant 4
  •   Participant 5
  •   Participant 6
  •   Participant 7


  • We all met and reviewed the 2.01 release deliverables
  • Development has been completed and regression testing is WIP
  • No risks have been identified at this point


  • The Sprint Tracker dashboard is here
  • The feature heat map deck is here

Next steps:

  • Ashok to communicate the release date to the on-boarding team by 10/Jan/2018
  • Mahuya to finish the demo setup by 15/Jan/2018
  • We regroup in 2 weeks to go through and discuss the product demo planned by Pamela

Summing it up:

  • Send out the agenda in advance
  • Be prepared for the meeting and mind the time
  • Be attentive and take notes, don’t be apologetic to ask questions or direct people to the agenda when you see it going off-track
  • Take notes (yes, again), proofread and distribute to the participants
  • Most important tip – Don’t forget to follow up. This helps in avoiding unpleasant déjà vu scene.

It would be incomplete to end the article without mentioning about Pijush & Niamh – two of my brilliant colleagues, whom I have seen swag in meetings with elegance. This article came as an inspiration from them, hope some of the information was helpful. I would love to hear about your views and tips to run meetings efficiently, feel free to comment below!


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook





Scope Creep: Pushing the Envelope?

Scope Creep


Scope creep reminds me of joke that likens it to a flying Frisbee: It’s like watching it and then wondering why it’s getting bigger… until it hits you! And trust me, it hurts!

Scope Creep = Scope getting larger

Scope creep results when the scope gets bigger and bigger without an increase in budget and time. Often times, it’s because the client discovers additional requirements on the go or the sales team have promised something that doesn’t exist.


Scope Creep ≠ Increase of (budget + Time)

It leads to poor quality of work, adversely impacts the project’s profitability and employee morale.

Example: A 30-hour job creeps into 55 hours and employees find no time for testing or for their family


Any one of the below or all lead to Scope Creep:

  • Poorly/loosely defined scope
  • Indecisive Stakeholders – not sticking to the agreed upon Scope of Work
  • Gold plating with no guaranteed customer satisfaction but adversely impacting project profitability
  • Engaging the clients very late in the development cycle
  • Ineffective Client Relation Management and poor customer on-boarding
  • Poor/lack of change management processes 


Scope Creep can be controlled by:

  • Proper Stakeholder management (clear definition of In-Scope vs. Out of Scope)
  • Setting up an effective Change Management Process
  • Up-Selling: Allow Scope Creep but make money
  • Adopting Agile Product Development


As a Product Manager when caught in a Scope Creep situation, it’s very important to ask yourself what’s the problem you are trying to solve and the end goal? For example, which of these Swiss Knives would you want to build for your customer segment? Are you sure all of your customers want this? Will your revenue numbers and market share grow if you build Swiss Knife 2 vs. Swiss Knife 1 and vice versa?

BUT (there’s always a “but” for any argument), next time when a new request comes in, take a pause and patiently deliberate over it. That specific scope creep you’ve been battling might just be the one thing that makes your product succeed. Something to ponder over!


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook





Reverse Ideation: Turning the Problem on its Head!

Design Thinking

Ever seen a court drama scene? At some point, the defense lawyer would invariably scream, “How can my client be guilty?” And no, it’s not a rhetorical question! That question begs to be answered and in the process, everyone involved would come up with their own ideas on why the defendant is guilty. Now cut to real life and do the same thing. We all try to engage in normal ideation process in which we begin with a problem and move towards a solution. But another (and equally interesting) form of ideation brainstorming process is called ‘Reverse Ideation’. In case of Reverse Ideation, we undertake a journey from the solution to the problem.


Reverse Ideation = Negative Brainstorming

Instead of asking how to solve the problem, reverse ideation focuses on how the problem can be aggravated.  

Figure 1: Ideation vs. Reverse Ideation


Reverse Ideation can be used as a powerful Design Thinking (through brainstorming) technique to get different perspectives on a problem. It becomes quite handy when we have a team with low morale, lacks energy, or is hostile to be less judgmental about new ideas. We can use this technique in combination with other ideation methods to get the optimal level of participation and outcome.


Let’s take an example of how to prevent people from jumping traffic signals and prevent accidents. Let’s write down the problem statement:

“How to prevent people from jumping traffic signals?”

Now let’s reverse the problem statement:

“How to make people jump traffic signals?”

Don’t you already start seeing how a new perspective emerges to reveal some very astonishing outcomes? Here are some of the few “reverse” ideas that emerge:

  • Randomly change the sequence of traffic signals
  • Short duration of Green for one side and long one for another
  • Shut down the traffic signal with no traffic police coordinating
  • Make motorists restless with endless wait

Let’s treat these inputs problems and try to find solutions for each of them. At the end of the brainstorming session, you would have a long list of ‘reverse’ solutions. It’s now time to scrutinize each idea in reverse and find a potential solution. For instance, the discussion may go along these lines:

Table 1: Reverse Ideation Process

And this would go on till the divergent reverse ideas get a life of their own, and a solution is born.


  • Reverse Ideation is a powerful design thinking tool to generate creative outputs
  • It is fun and often improves the morale of the teams that are low on energy or are cynical
  • It works best when people are more analytic than creative and are able to conceptually reverse the problem.
  • Characteristics of the Group:

Figure 2: Team Traits

  • It does not need too much of training
  • Reverse Ideation can be done both remotely or through face-to-face facilitation


Reverse Ideation is one of the very good methods to engage in imaginative problem solving and can lead to robust solutions. The application of this technique is typically for technology scouting and innovation through constraints. Reverse Ideation probably also has roots in human psychology. We sometimes (or mostly) are wired to be cynical and judgmental about ideas. This very weakness of ours is put to best use in Reverse Ideation. After all, to find the devil in the detail, we have to be devil’s advocate.


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook



A Sustainable Customer Experience


What used to be a “nice-to-have” or an after-thought has now become a necessity. Yes, we are referring to ‘Omni-channel Customer Experience (CX)’. Small wonder that CX figures at the top of every organization’s list of things to achieve and deliver. CX has become all the more important now that the ‘power to contact’ has shifted to the consumers. And this ‘power to contact’ is through so many new and emerging channels that an omni-channel CX is the need of the hour to bridge all the silos and offer seamless transition across the customer journey. That’s why the event on “Shaping the future of Customer Experience – Vision 2020” by Zendesk and Trescon was so relevant and we were so glad to be a part of it.

So, what exactly is omni-channel?

A true Omni-channel Customer Experience is all about ensuring a consistent customer experience across any channel that the customer chooses to interact with a brand/company. In other words, it’s about providing a seamless, unified and a connected customer journey across channels without losing any context.

What are the driving forces that are enforcing organizations to plan for an omni-channel customer experience?

There’s a paradigm shift in the customer buying behavior today. The shift is from the traditional Offline mode to more of an Online/Offline mode with more focus on self-service as shown below:

As per a report published by Dell in a recent report, the key drivers for organizations are:

Needless to say, it’s important to embed the changing customer buying behavior into your omni-channel customer experience strategy to stay in the game and to keep your top-line intact.

Top 5 recommended strategies to implement an omni-channel customer experience

A true omni-channel customer experience touches all parts of the organization, from IT to marketing to customer services, and sometimes even external partners. Achieving the omni-channel promise requires an ongoing investment in people, processes, and technology, along with a long-term vision of how you want to treat your customers when they interact with your brand.

Here are our top 5 recommended strategies:

1. Analyze your customer personas, their channel preferences and how a typical customer journey looks like when they interact with your organization: Who are your target users? What are their demographics and channel preferences when they interact with your brand/product/service? Which platform do they use for performing the key transactions – do they call, email, request a chat, or take some other avenue?

Your first goal should be to understand your target customer’s preferred channel and a typical customer journey. Then work towards supporting context-sharing among those channels your customers frequently use to accomplish a single task.

2. Define channel-specific business strategy: The success of an omni-channel customer experience depends on the clarity about your customers’ needs and then aligning the business objectives.

  • Is there an opportunity to close more online sales with web chat? If yes, then can we leverage AI Chat bots so that we can provide sales support 24*7?
  • Are text-based communications more effective for technical help? If yes, then can we leverage AI Email Bots to smartly find the right answers and communicate back to customers?
  • Is your goal to automate routine inquiries through effective self-service?

Having such clarity and goals would allow you to adjust your organizational strategies to optimize omni-channel goals and align resources more effectively.

Here’s a Cost vs. Value Creation comparison across various channels:

3. Empower agents with 360 degree view of the customers prior to their interactions, and train them to handle priority callers more effectively: Customer adoption of digital channels doesn’t undermine the importance of the voice channel. Instead, the role of this channel changes and its importance increases to promote customer loyalty. It becomes a medium for handling complex interactions. So empower your agents with the right information in real-time through the right technology and systems. Evaluate if there’s an opportunity to leverage Chatbots/Artificial Intelligence to assist agents with Support Requests to provide faster and accurate response.

4. Evaluate agent performance across all touchpoints: Invest in a customer support solution that is capable of call or chat routing, recording and evaluating quality across channels. Also ensure that the customer support solution you choose has certified integrations across all commonly used applications in your organization. This ensures personalized and contextual interactions which is the prerequisite/foundation to enable a true omni-channel customer experience

5. Ensure that your customer support application vendor has the right experience and reputation: Do your research, opt for their trials and evaluate their value propositions vs. your requirement. Look for vendors who have SaaS offerings. Look for customer success and failure stories to objectively take an informed decision.

Final Thoughts

Given the fact that IoT is one of the emerging channels of customer engaging with products and services; it’s a no holds barred game that enterprises must win to stay relevant. Knocking off or slighting over existing multi-channel investments isn’t an option. Customers prefer dealing with enterprises that provide a memorable experience and all have some sort of game plan to handle it. So what’s your CX story?


Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook