Friday, September 23, 2011

Impactful leadership- Weekend Read- Yash Gupta A*Star Singapore

“AeroProductivity —It’s everyone’s business”.Productivity is abstract but at the same time, measurable. An abundance of it is one element of success in a commercial entity and very often, it starts from the top down, with solid leadership as a source for it to grow. In this column, we feature leadership in the form of exemplary working principles espoused by Yash Gupta, A*STAR’s Aerospace Programme Director, which can have a ripple effect on productivity.
.   Here is Yash, in a  nutshell.
• After graduation in 1970, he served in the Indian Army for nine years and served in the frontline. He held senior staff positions at the army HQ and in the field.
• Was with Hitachi Singapore for nine years from 1979.
• In 1988, joined Seagate and worked for 16 years, starting as a first Director of Quality and developed the Total Improvement Management Program.
• Joined the National University  of Singapore in 2004 as Director of Consulting.
• In 2007, joined Agency for Science, Technology and research (A*STAR) as Director
Aerospace Program

Over the past 41 years of my working life,
I have had opportunities to develop my
knowledge, skills and work ethic, attributes
which have helped shape my life,
philosophy and character. The organisations
I have worked include the Indian Army, Hitachi,
Seagate, the National University of Singapore and
The following guiding principles will, I hope, be
helpful, as these have been tried and tested throughout
my working life. Let me start with a short story…..
There was a farmer who grew superior quality
and award-winning corn. Each year he entered his
corn in the state fair where it won honours and prizes.
One year, a newspaper reporter interviewed him and
learnt something interesting about how he grew it.
The reporter discovered that the farmer shared
his seed corn with his neighbours. “How can you afford
to share your best seed corn with your neighbours
when they are entering corn in competition with
yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir “said
the farmer, “didn’t you know?”
“The wind picks up pollen from the ripening
corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors
grow inferior, sub-standard and poor quality corn,
cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of
my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my
neighbors grow good corn.”
The farmer’s insight is superb. His corn cannot
improve unless his neighbor’s corn also improves. So
it is in the other dimensions! Those who choose to be
at harmony must help their neighbors and colleagues
to be at peace. Those who choose to live well must help
others to live well.
The value of a life is measured by the lives it touches.
Success does not happen in isolation. It is very often
a participative and collective process.
I am sharing my working principles, ideas, and new
learning in the hope that readers will find them useful in
work and at home. This way, I hope to create more like
minded persons, for our society and nation. Like any
person, my behaviour do change at times, but principle
is a fundamental truth, something that never changes. I
have to defend my principles in the face of adversity and
in the process learn something when all is over.
Make the effort to be perfect in everything you do. Assuming
that it’s okay to make a mistake upfront is totally
wrong. Making mistakes is not an option but preventing
them is. Always aim for 100% and missing it by a few
points is better than going for 60 to 70% and achieving
it. In other words, I dream big and go for it. Planning
and delivering out of the box, adopting unconventional
and unthinkable methods, and achieving exceptional
results satisfy me the most.
There is no challenge in doing same job with the
same process and expecting different results. It’s not
possible. This is an ordinary person’s thinking. I do
benchmarking of the best practices in the world with
the sole intention to outperform the benchmarked practices
and results. There is unique joy and satisfaction in
undertaking such tough actions and setting new peaks
of excellence. I have achieved the same to some extent
in the A*STAR Aerospace Programme. From just four
members in Feb 2008 to 18 in Feb 2011 would not have
been possible without my belief in possibilities and not
letting negative thoughts control my thinking.
Words like ‘difficult’, ‘impossible’, ‘cannot’, ‘how
can’ are missing from my dictionary, and this reflects
my attitude.
Can do and will do spirit Generally speaking, engineers are versatile, trained
to be analytical, logical, and flexible regardless of the industry they are in. The fundamental training in engineering augmented by humility, passion, strong willpower, experience, character, honesty, integrity, commitment,
and the ability to connect with people and
willingness to do things for people with a positive attitude
drives me to my desired goals. I am always hungry
and thirsty for moral righteousness and doing the right
thing, right, at the first time.
I believe in being a visionary as I tend to plan/execute
tomorrow’s needs today and make it better than yesterday’s
performance. Daily operational needs should be
delegated. I spend 20% of my time on current issues and
80% for the needs of the next six months to one year.
I invest more time visualising on what can go wrong
with my plans of tomorrow’s activities so that with
past experience, I can develop fall–back or contingency
plans. There is no challenge in being reactive and solving
today’s problems, I call it firefighting. I fool-proof
the process or activity, where possible. As a leader, my
challenge is to gear staff (direct or indirect) to do an
extraordinary job. It is tough for both the leader and
staff if there is a lack of attitude and willpower from
any side.
Change Agent
I have been a change agent throughout my working
career, including my present job. Change is a MUST as
one must never be satisfied with the results achieved
since they can be further improved in incremental steps
through intelligent ways of probing the current situation.
It has been very challenging and tough but rewarding;
particularly when I see people benefiting from the
new knowledge and a healthy bottom line.
Making Mistakes
Mistakes occur due to faulty processes, machinery
or simply, human error. We all make mistakes but we
must learn from them. My challenge all the while has
been to make sure that the same mistake does not recur.
One must be humble in accepting his/her mistakes
and provide the necessary steps to avoid recurrence.
Mistakes also point us to reviewing processes to install
error-proof systems. Reactive action is more costly than
preventive action.
I work with people I feel I can bring value-add to; that
is, to bring something extra to them. I don’t see this as
work, it’s a passion. One’s passion to make the effort to
give something and achieve perfection makes it a lasting
experience. Passion and hunger for learning are
twin attributes for success. Any activity, any process,
any investment of time including conducting or attending
a meeting is a waste if it does not add value.
This is a key principle of the Lean Thinking mindset.
Everyone in the organisation is basically hired to
create and add value in some form. For myself, I have
built in a healthy sense of dissatisfaction with today’s
achievements as I strongly believe that there is always
room for further improvement.
Strong client relationship
Knowledge stems from experience. With more working
experience, one accumulates more knowledge and wisdom.
Business relations cannot be hot when personal
relations are cold. In the Aerospace Programme, it is
very important to have a strong personal relationship
with the senior management of the aerospace and related
companies globally.
One has to be a good communicator and powerful
work ethics, and be serious with commitments. My task
is to sell them a future that is better than now. Creating
confidence and trust in our clients can be achieved only
through integrity and intellectual curiosity. I strongly
believe that the client is right all the time and I have to
serve them for the sake of continuous progress of the
aerospace programme and Singapore.
The global aerospace industry is well-linked and
word will get around when the organisation and its
representatives are held in high esteem. Then, new
companies will join the consortium and engage in our
research institute for their individual projects. My positive
attitude is a key factor for them to build trust in
our value propositions.
Building and delivering capabilities are key to developing
and sustaining member confidence. So performance
delivery in all matters that delight the member is
my daily responsibility. The client must be convinced
that I have walked the extra mile to satisfy their needs.
I have established a hot line with all consortium members
and provide a response within 12 hours, 24x7.
A positive attitude at all times (including when there
was no hope to survive, which happened twice in my
life) has been THE factor of my survival and progress
to date. Many esteemed professionals define quality as
conforming to requirements, while I have been promoting
and strictly adhering to it as an attitude of mind.
Quality thinking and a positive attitude has been in my
blood since my days in the Army.
I hire attitude rather than a person with excellent
credentials. You can certainly impart any technical
skill, knowledge, experience, or best practices to an employee
having positive attitude. But it is a futile effort
to achieve the same with a person with a negative attitude.
I must admit that I have not succeeded in hiring
people with right attitudes on some occasions.

No comments:

Post a Comment