Thursday, November 07, 2019

A Show & Tell makes all the difference...a story from my experience

How much difference can a 'Show & Tell' make in our daily lives? A I learned when I was buying a car.

It was the summer of 2019...a defining year in our history with changing cars...We had had enough of our SUV and wanted to upgrade to a more luxurious car. After having test driven a dozen cars, we finally zeroed in on a crossover which had a mega, panoramic sun roof and amazing features 😎. However, there was one aspect which bothered us - the available colors. The choice was a dull, lackluster set of color options 😞 

"Why can't this car come with the nice 'Marina' blue?", I asked the salesman. I did not really expect an answer and was venting out my disappointment; however, he actually took my request to the manufacturer. As luck would have it, we found out that one of our distant relatives was a Leader in the Marketing group. Our conversation with her reinforced our hope to get a blue 3-4 weeks.

We were all excited and eagerly waiting for a wonderful car in a bright, breezy blue color, called 'Marina Blue'. However, destiny, aka the Marketing team, had something else in store....they had decided on 'Moonlight Blue'. We felt as blind as a bat, not knowing what this color was 😡. Our expectation turned to frustration, our feelings were like those of a raging bull. We decided to cancel the booking.

That was the moment, when...Pop! Came a WhatsApp message with a visual showing a photo of the Moonlight Blue car. We opened the message with mixed feelings. The picture of the car that unfolded was ...beautiful! Our anger turned to admiration in that instant. A simple 'Show & Tell' turned around our decision.

Today, as we eagerly wait for our dream car, we remain loyal customers....a Show & Tell made all the difference!!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Singapore - before you go

I visited Singapore in April 2017 and did a lot of pre-planning by browsing websites and talking to friends. Below is a gist of what I've gathered and refined from my travel to Singapore:

  1. Flight Tickets - look for options via Trichy or Chennai in Jet or Indigo - you might get cheaper fares
  2. Visa - you have to apply only through an agent. The agent will send your application to Embassy only about 10-15 days before travel date, so plan your travel accordingly.
  3. Accommodation - book at least a month in advance, and choose a hotel which is near Serangoon Road or Little India MRT train station. So that you have good connectivity and have lots of restaurants nearby.
  4. Sightseeing tickets - Try to get tickets for the major attractions in advance through an agent or website like You get a discount and avoid the queue at the entrance of the attraction.
  5. Travel in Singapore - Once you land in Singapore, get the Singapore Tourist Pass at any TransitLink office. It allows you to travel unlimited in bus or MRT for 2 or 3 days depending on which pass you buy. 
  6. Shopping and GST Refund - if you purchase > 100 Singapore dollars in a shop, you can get a GST refund at the airport. So make sure you have your passport with you while shopping and get the GST refund form from the shop. Later, you show the form at the airport to get the refund
  7. At Universal Studios - go on a weekday and reach there by 10 am to avoid the crowd. Carry packed lunch with you cos it is very expensive and crowded inside. Carry water bottles from outside - you can refill them inside. Get an express pass for people who will go on the high rides. Do not miss the Waterworld show at 1.30 pm.
  8. Gardens by the Bay - get tickets for Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. Plan to be there during afternoon and evening. Do not miss the 8 pm show in the open area - the Supertrees are very beautiful.
  9. Other attractions not to miss - Science Centre (at Jurong East), Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, Luge ride at Sentosa, shopping at Mustafa and Bugis street

Thanks to :,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Lunch

I eat lunch every day. so what’s unique about it? First of all, what is lunch? Wikipedia says: Luncheon, commonly abbreviated to lunch, is a mid-day meal, and is generally smaller than dinner, which is the main meal of the day whenever dinner is eaten.

Interesting, since the popular saying says: breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper!

Well, there was a day when I had lunch twice! It was a Swiss lunch. Wondering what a Swiss lunch is? Now don’t google for it, you won’t find it exactly, since I coined the term just now. I define it as: lunch in the Swiss Alps.

I visited Mount Titlis this summer with family. Since I foresaw the possibility of not finding good vegetarian food up there, I packed some burgers, French Fries and coke. As soon as we reached there (around 12 noon), we were so hungry that we gobbled up our lunch.

We thought we had finished lunch. But in fact, that was just Phase I of our lunch. The plethora of activities made us hungry soon.

Luckily, as we descended down in the cable car, we saw a Vada Pav/Pav Bhaji shop. Unimaginable! Indian chat food in the Swiss Alps! That was my Lunch Phase II!

So now you see how I ate Swiss lunch like a king!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Its Time...

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – said Walt Disney.
 So…what do you do when you have to tread a new path, and ITS TIME for a handover?
Identify a successor
Train your successor
Share work with your successor while front-ending activities
 Tell all stakeholders
Induct the person formally; let him/her manage Normal Scenarios while you remain in the background
Move in to manage exceptions, if needed
Exit when you are not needed to manage the exceptions

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Case for Causal Analysis

What is Causal Analysis ?
As the name indicates, it is a process to analyze and find out what caused a problem/issue, and take actions to prevent recurrence. The basic principle is to find out the root causes for the problem, not the symptoms, and treat those root causes. This is also called Root Cause Analysis (RCA).

The term Causal Analysis and Resolution (CAR) is one of the processes that a CMMi level 5 mature organization needs to follow. It aims at:
·         Identifying and analyzing causes of defects and other problems
·         Taking specific actions to remove the causes and prevent the recurrence of those types of defects and problems
It is a science as well as an art.

Why CAR?
·         We need a systematic way to boil down on the root of problems
·         We need a trigger to find out process problems - thus aiding in process improvement
·         To spread the word about what went wrong, why it went wrong (root causes) – thus help prevent recurrence of the problem
·         We need a process in place to ensure continuous process improvement

How to find out root causes - 5 Whys method
The trick with root cause analysis is to keep finding out why the problem occurred till we narrow down on the root cause(s). For e.g.:
  • My car will not start. (the problem)
  1. Why? - The battery is dead. (first why)
  2. Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
  3. Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (third why)
  4. Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and has never been replaced. (fourth why)
  5. Why? - I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)
  6. Why? - Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of my vehicle.(sixth why, optional footnote)
We can go on asking ‘why’ further but the theory is that after asking 5 Whys we generally get to the root cause.  The root cause will generally point to a process not working well. The root causes can be represented as a Fish-bone/Ishikawa/Cause-And-Effect diagram ( Once we zero in on the root causes, we can think of actions to prevent recurrence of the problem.
Action proposal to prevent recurrence: Maintain my car according to the recommended service schedule.
Hence, the goal of root cause analysis is Defect Prevention.

How do we do CAR ?
1.       Do Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
a.       Define the problem – e.g. defects occurring in the project affect quality
b.      Gather data – e.g. number of defects in each phase
c.       Ask why and find out the root causes for each problem
d.      Identify doable corrective actions that will prevent recurrence
2.       Implement the actions
3.       Repeat step 1 and check for repeating root causes

Points to note:
·         Be careful not to confuse symptoms with root causes
·         Have it done by the people who worked on the project, not by anyone external
·         Do it by discussion as a team, rather than in silos by a team member
What are the challenges?
·         “This is great, but I don’t have the time for it”
when somebody says “I haven’t got time to do this”, what they are really saying is “what you are asking me to do is lower priority than the things that I am currently doing”. Changing this sense of priorities is one of the imperatives for successful CAR implementation. After all, “If you haven’t got time to stop these failures from recurring, how are you going to find the time to keep fixing them?”
·         Unwillingness to tackle the bigger issues
some action proposals might not be within the team’s control. These are typically solutions that require changes at an organization level. They need more time, effort and management clout to implement. Often, since the team doing root cause analysis consists of lower level personnel, they are reluctant to identify and recommend such actions.
·         Fear of being blamed for the errors
People often come across root causes pointing to errors of omission. In such a case, it is very easy to slip into the ‘blame game’ and recommend disciplinary or retraining actions.
How can we work around the challenges?
·         Have a skilled facilitator to guide the CAR discussion
·         Ensure that the action proposals are achievable/within the team’s control
·         Ensure that Senior management supports the implementation of recommendations dealing with organizational causes
·         Understand that nobody is immune from omissions. Instill the culture of proactive CAR.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pages from my travelogue

How many of you have visited or heard of Mission Viejo? I did, 10 years back, and am reminded of it now when I browse through my travelogue.

The first page takes me back to Bangalore airport. I was to take a flight to Chennai. I had completed check-in, security check and was waiting at the departure gate. Saw people leaving for various flights – but did not see the departure announcement for my flight. After waiting for almost an hour, I found myself as alone as the kid Kevin in the Home Alone movie. Was shocked to hear my name being announced – “this is the final call for passenger Usha travelling to Chennai”… The realization hit me like a bucket of cold water!
I rushed to the gate as fast as an Olympic runner!

I flip the page of my travelogue – the scene takes me to Malaysia. From Chennai I was to travel to Los Angeles with a stopover at Malaysia.

On reaching Malaysia and experiencing the maze of elevators at the airport, I checked into a hotel. Very exhausted, I set the alarm and fell into deep slumber like Sleeping Beauty.
I dreamt about missing the flight, and awoke with a start. Not to worry; I had plenty of time. I was not to miss a flight yet. The rest of my journey till LA and the hotel was quite uneventful. So I move to the next page of my travel diary.

First day at Mission Viejo
The first day at work – I took a cab which dropped me in office in 15 minutes. So I thought – let me walk down in the evening and pick up some groceries on the way. I started walking. I walked on and on and on for one hour….like an Energizer battery. However By the time I reached the store, my energy was all gone. Luckily I met an Indian family from Orissa, started talking to them and told them my story. This friendship was good for me – because they dropped me at the hotel and also invited me for dinner the next day!

My travelogue next talks about my journey to Atlanta one long weekend.

It was my birthday and I was to catch a flight to Atlanta on Fri evening. My friend came over to drop me at Los Angeles airport. Oh bother! The highway was jammed and vehicles moved at snail’s pace. I realized then – that a jam is a jam is a jam – whether in India or the US, we feel the same pain!
Finally reached the airport missed the flight by a whisker. A whisker - because the pilots were also caught in the jam and the flight was delayed. Whew! Somehow managed to catch the next flight, landed in Atlanta airport at 6 am and called my cousin. She picked up the phone, and asked “where are you”? I said, “Atlanta airport. Where are you?”. I heard her swearing “Oh my God!”….and rushing out from her home…guess she had set too early an alarm time, heard it, had switched it off and gone back to sleep!
So….this was how I came, I saw and I experienced the USA…the memory is still as sweet as honey to me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Toastmasters Project 2 - Organize Your Speech

The Rule of Three

What is the Rule of Three?
How to apply the Rule to your speech outline?
How to add humor with the rule

Tobacco. [long pause]Alcohol. [long pause]Guns. [long pause]Criminal items seized in a search [slight pause] of a 6th grade locker in a bad school district.
In case you think I’m going to talk about crime, you’re mistaken. I just used 3 words to show how the Rule of Three can be used in a speech.

What is the rule of Three?
The Rule of Three is a powerful speechwriting technique that we should learn, practice and master. It suggests that things which come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.
Using the rule enables us to express concepts better, emphasize the points, and make our message memorable.
A series of three is often used to create a
progression in which the tension is created, then built up, and finally released
That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! – this is an example of the rule of three.
General examples:
· from books - The Good, The Bad and the ugly
· from French motto - Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
· Government – of the people, by the people, for the people

Why rule of three – why not two or four? There is something magical about the rule of three – it allows the speaker to express a concept, emphasize it and make it memorable.
As Roy Peter Clark says –
The mojo of three offers a greater sense of completeness than four or
Use one for power. Use two for comparison, contrast. Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness.
Some examples where people have used the rule in their speeches:
· “Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered” – Obama’s inaugural speech
· “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt]
· “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” - Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar

How to apply the rule of three in your speech outline?
We just saw how the rule can be applied at a micro level, to form triads of words or sentences. Now let’s see how we can apply it to craft an entire speech outline.
Last week, my daughter and I visited our local library to get some children’s books – lo! We found the rule of 3 in those stories:
§ Three Little Pigs — the first two pigs get eaten because their houses are weak; the third pig’s house of bricks is strong.
§ Goldilocks and the Three Bears — the porridge was too hot; the porridge was too cold; the porridge was just right.
§ The
wicked stepmother visits Snow White in the forest three times before she finally causes her to fall dead
Stephen J. Cannell
claims that “Every great movie, book or play that has stood the test of time has a solid Three-Act structure.” – the introduction/setup, the confrontation, and the climax/resolution.
So how can we apply the rule to a speech outline?
1. Introduction, Body, and Conclusionnow you might say – this is, of course, obvious! Sure, it is the most common outline people use. However people often omit the introduction – jumping into the content - making the audience wonder “How did we get here”? Sometimes, the speaker runs out of time, and omits the conclusion
2. Past, Present, Future
3. Complication, Resolution, Example
4. Three stories
5. Pros, Cons, Recommendation

How to add humor with the rule of Three
How to add humor? Add a twist to the third element. E.g. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” - Benjamin Disraeli>> the “statistics” is the twist
A funny line is sometimes said to be like a train wreck. You know where the train (your train of thought) has been, you think you know where it's going, but then you're surprised when it goes off track. The surprise or twist helps build the tension to create and magnify the humor.
How do you get to my place? Go down to the corner, turn left, and get lost
Many popular jokes are based on three characters – e.g. the Englishman, the Irishman, and the Scot – all in the same situation. The first two react normally; the third does something which is not pragmatic.
I heard this once on an answering machine – “Sorry I can’t personally answer the phone. I’m either motivating thousands of people, appearing on the Oprah show, or…taking a nap”
Some patterns you could use to create humor are:
· Expected Trait/Expected Trait/Unexpected Trait (She was pretty, she was shapely, she was a man).
· Ordinary/ordinary/ridiculous – I go to Las Vegas to see the shows, eat at the buffets, and spend my money
· Rhyme/rhyme/rhyme – Three things that describe ‘xyz’ – Nifty, thrifty, Fifty
Here’s one more example: Ellen always takes 3 hours and 3 seconds to get ready: one hour to put on her make up, two hours to choose an outfit and 3 seconds to make up an excuse for being late.

Humor results from the mismatch between expectation and reality. When you follow the rule of three, set a pattern with the first two elements. This also sets the expectation for the third element, and heightens the tension. However, break that expectation when you actually reveal the third element.
Remember, the last element is the key which will determine whether you are humorous, memorable, or forgettable.
As John Richardson said, “
When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.

Plugged into Toastmasters

Its been almost a year since I started attending Toastmasters...should've posted about it loooong back....but....better late than never!
Tis been a great learning experience so far - have delivered 5 prepared speeches, and been through various roles - Toastmaster, TT Master, Ah counter, Word master, TT evaluator, etc. TT Master is my favourite role!
I'd recommend folks to join Toastmasters - it not only enriches your communication skills; but you also learn a lot by listening to other speakers. And of course, you get to play a variety of other roles!

My next posts will contain the text of my prepared speeches.