I AM TOO CREATIVE TO HAVE A 9 TO 5.
Before jumping into entrepreneurship, I was working full-time in MNC (with dream portfolio) but in-spite of pampered environment I was still searching for meaning & more significant purpose. Simmering beneath the surface was this unshakeable belief that there was something bigger I was meant to be doing…but of course, the limiting beliefs - that shrill call of “You’re not ready to take this risk!” & ”You’re so comfortable here..” and this persistent voice insisted me to play safe but deep inside I knew I am in a mess and I am not happy with it.
I genuinely disliked my job & a few weeks later I quit and ventured my firm Omni-Bridge Systems Pvt. Ltd. (lovingly we call “OB”) along with my partner Amit Shitole. We started it with only one aim..doing something we are passionate about, and we converged onto product-development (in mobile technology). We have taken this leap with no concrete plan, no god-father and without any safety nets (“not without family support”) but we had our freedom and passion for pursuing.
…Eureka moments with our product “TraffiCop”
You can’t get a better feeling when you stand on the national podium for receiving two national awards - “Best Entrepreneurial Firm” and most “Innovative Urban Mobility Product”.
Eminent scientist like Raghunath A Mashelkar by terming as “the most impressive mobile governance solution for management of traffic violations” and urged chief minister (then Prithviraj Chavan) to implement the project across the state.
Yes, this was the Midas time for us; everything was going our way for the product we developed i.e. “TraffiCop” (One of its kind solutions to inculcate traffic culture, it allowed traffic police personnel to log offence and view the history of offender within 2 secs). The product was in the limelight across all medias & top MNCs like Vodafone and BlackBerry was running behind us to partner. The state government took all the necessary steps to ensure it gets rolled out across the state Maharashtra.
With relentless efforts of 40 engineers for 4 years (2008-2012), $2M investment we were more than optimistic to roll out this product when state chief minister signed this project.
…until this happened
We stood stunned in front of the debacle. Fire engulfed our 4 years of dream project (“TraffiCop”), which was on the verge of a rollout across the state. The first time we truly understood the meaning of “Bad Luck”. With no more funds, courage & energy left; we were clueless about our next journey as an entrepreneur.
…rise from the ashes
It's said that...
If a fracture heals properly, that point of fusion is even stronger than the rest of the bone and we had many fractures ;)
We took this failure as a blessing in disguise, as now we shifted our focus from government agencies to MNC-style of working & clients. We got unconditional support from our family, friends and most importantly people within OB.
We reiterated our aim “doing something we are passionate about” & yes we still had our burning passion to rebuild OB.
…journey towards transformation
During these years, we ran the company according to “Super-hero’s” model. We tend to put a bet on star employees of an organization who used to outperform others. This approach worked fantastic until these super-hero’s went into another organization, which brought us back to square one. Lately, we radically changed our approach. Instead of grooming star-performers, we decided to set focus on company culture and building team around company’s core values. Here every employee is given equal opportunity to grow in the company and thrive for achieving company’s core values.
This radical rethinking made us realize how important it is to bring team’s participation in the company.
- Derive company’s mission to chase.
- Bring inner drive to be autonomous.
- Aim to achieve mastery in what we are doing.
- Thrive to make team realize their purpose.
MEASURES FOR “COMPANY CULTURESCAPE"
Derive company’s mission – is about exhibiting something which you are within & something which everyone in the company feels passionate enough to chase. When we wanted to derive one for OB, we actually meant that we truly believe in it (not just another artefact on a wall), if not done with belief - your customers and your team within a company will spot a lie instantly.
With active participation from everyone (series of one-on-one’s), we came up with a mission statement which easily connected with everyone (customers, employees & stakeholders) … i.e. “Happily Delivering Happiness.”
The sole reason why we felt connected with our company’s mission statement was it simply defined what our business does for our customers & employees.
Being autonomous is not default setting in an organization – we as humans are autonomous by nature, but the corporate culture has changed style and definition of autonomy. I have personally disliked MNC culturescape, wherein you have set boundaries of growth where an individual has to adjust or sacrifice his/her values. Thus bringing this value system in our organization was close to my heart.
I believe autonomy is different from independence. At OB it means we can be both autonomous and still happily interdependent with others. This also means you trust your people at every step, which yields very positive effect on individuals performance and attitude.
What’s more, we learned that different individuals desire a different level of autonomy like some might crave for autonomy in their tasks, some might demand autonomy over the team. To bring balance, we designed our definition of autonomy through series of 1-on-1’s (knowing more about individuals passion, goals & ambitions) and by deriving individuals Blueprint (you can read more about it in Tools section below) this gave us an output of better team engagement & coordination.
Aiming to achieve mastery in what we are doing, keeps us excited – we firmly believe in "GOLDILOCKS Rule” that states that we should be enough motivated & excited about tasks in-hand which always takes us on the edge of our abilities. Setting goals which are “Too Easy” we’ll get bored very easily if goals which are “Too Hard” we’ll get demotivated very easily, we need to set goals which are “Just Right” which will keep us motivated & charged to achieve it.
We have somehow managed to bring “Just Right” balance within OB team members this has been achieved primarily due to individuals Blueprint. It helped us not only define goals and its level of difficulties but also measure progress closely and systematically increase level enough to keep them motivated.
Running for anything without Purpose is no fun – we have made a conscious attempt in OB to define meaningful purpose (for individuals, teams & company). This meaningful purpose is what gets us out of bed in the morning and makes us come to work without groaning and grumbling. Here we have also formulated our own motivating factors which are not just extrinsic but truly intrinsic.
Off-course, all companies face their own level of a roller coaster of business and every day’s challenges but having true purpose helps us to remain well focused and avoid unnecessary distractions.
As an employer, we have only helped people in the organization to connect to something larger than themselves. Get them out of mere measurement by numbers and figures instead let them connect work to people and values.
Read section Housing 2.0 & Blueprints for the soul for more details.
Blueprints for the soul
These Blueprint interaction discussion has played a significant role in transforming company’s culture and deriving mission statement which everyone feels passionate.
These discussions were another platform where we have an open dialogue on:
- Understanding a person’s ambitions, passion quotient, purpose & how a company can help them to achieve defined goals.
- Setting individuals goals and in-line them closely with company’s mission & core values.
- Knowing grievances and handling them at an appropriate moment helped us build a very healthy relationship.
Housing has been one of our internal USPs, which is evolved from the base of our schools days where a school is split into sub-units called as “Houses” and every student thrives to get a house on top.
This activity helped us in building team spirit, team bonding, the opportunity to stand-out, grow as an individual and lead your house towards WIN.
Our "Housing 1.0 (in 2016-2017 )” was a first stepping stone towards real transformation in OB's people-oriented culture.
Agile & Scrum
Agile based development approach has been a big transition in the way we started executing projects in OB. Before Agile, we used to do “Guesstimate” right from the start of the project till we made last delivery (which was never as per said timeframe). This unpredictable and frustrating model of development cost a lot on OB’s reputation & speed with which we could be had delivered projects.
Introduction of Agile needed us to make some fundamental changes like:
- Break orthodox style of designations - we have only 3 roles: Product Owners (PO), Scrum Masters (SM) & Team members.
- Identify people capable to exhibit roles of PO & SM.
- Building PO’s & SM’s who are certified - which meant they are well aware of best practices.
- Following shorter sprint releases (within 2 weeks) instead of traditional 3-4 weeks of releases.
- Daily team sync-up through standup SCRUMS & updating Burn-Down charts.
- Conducting Sprint Planning (with the team), Sprint Reviews (with the client), Sprint Retrospective Meetings (with the team).
- Educating client on Agile methodology.
These above approaches helped better :
- Stakeholder satisfaction.
- Teamwork &
- Retention of clients.
It worked like a “Lighthouse” in OB.
This has been fundamental guiding principles which dictated our behaviour. It also helped every team member in the organization to know what’s wrong and right.
To sum-it-up, I realized that if you want to be a different kind of company and differentiate from traditional MNC style of practice, the best way to stand out is in the way you live your purpose ("Why") and values & most importantly how you treat your people in the organization.
Bottom line: Entrepreneurism is a means goal, not an end goal. The end goal is usually living a life of purpose, combined with the experiences that freedom and money can bring.