PM Article

An Alternative Approach to Work & Life

Yatin Samant

“It’s not my job”, is a very popular phrase heard in the Corporate World. Have we stopped to ponder why is that? Let’s take Job Descriptions or JDs to illustrate the “why”. A JD is a document that’s created to provide clarity on one’s roles and responsibilities. Ironically, it seems to have had an adverse impact on people, making them experts in knowing what their job is not, than understanding what it is and therefore what is expected from the role!

While we don’t have an ambition of transforming anyone who does not want to be transformed; for those desirous of looking at life a little differently, I have an alternative life (and hence work) approach, which I discovered and follow. This approach works around asking three successive questions, when you see anything around work, item, aspect, emotion, person… just about anything:

1. Does this (work) need to be done? If the answer is “Yes”, go to the second question

2. Can I do it? (vis-à-vis your ability to do it) If the answer is “Yes”, go to next question

3. Will I do it? (to willingly do with your time and availability)

If the answer to the third question is ‘Yes’, just DO IT, regardless of your JD. It really doesn’t matter whose job it is!


Let me explain this to you with an example. You have a part-time housemaid who comes every day to wash utensils. She has not turned up for the last two days, without notice. As a result, utensils to be cleaned have piled up in your kitchen sink and you are running short of utensils for cooking. You have two options, either wait until the day your maid shows up (because it is ‘HER Job’ – remember, it is ‘Not My Job’ for you!), or make an alternative arrangement to clean the utensils, including washing them yourself. Now try using the alternative work approach, ask three successive questions:

1.  Does this (work) need to be done? Your answer is likely to be “Yes” – Go to next question.

2. Can I do it? Not being a skilled job, your answer is “Yes”, go to next question

3. Will I do it? – Decide based on your time & mental comfort, maybe you say ‘Yes’

In reality, you would have acted much earlier than two days, you would understand that these three questions would have crossed your subconscious mind and would have been answered in affirmative, even before you realized. This is how we work in our personal life, unfortunately when it comes to our work, we think it is someone else’s job!

One caution before you answer the third question. It is not just a matter of your time (availability), but your will, your mental comfort. If by doing that job (which was not “Your Job”) you are likely to feel angry or likely to feel that you are doing a favour or a big sacrifice, I feel it is not worth you undertaking that task, because the burden you will feel by doing a ‘favour’ or the mental resistance you will experience while physically performing the task you did not want to – will haunt you as stress, well past the event . Please do not do anything which you can’t do willingly and with pleasure.

I always said that “What you do is a function of how you see”. Conventional (JD bound) approach can make you a ‘Maid’ and the new approach to work, which I shared above is what most Mothers choose.

While you would decide what you want to do, I am sharing this new approach to make you aware that there is an alternative approach beyond the conventional not-my-job route, so that you have a choice. If you are the person with a burning career ambition, this new approach is for you.

This approach does not lead to exploitation of one who chooses it, because, you will remember that you always have the option of saying “No” to the 3rd question.

What is true for Work is also true for Life and vice-versa, because you need to realise that across Work / Life, you are the same person and not two different personae. These three questions – which I learnt from my Mother’s & Wife’s behaviour, will help you at any stage in life!

Yatin Samant

Yatin has 34 years of corporate experience and is a visiting faculty at renowned management institutes in Bangalore. He has also served as an independent director on the Board of a large organization in the Education sector. He is a certified Personal Coach –PCC level, with ICF, USA.


Learnings from Indian Mythology – Perils of the Dashboard Approach

Reena Dayal Yadav

In the Mahabharata there is a time when Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas – the five famous warrior princes and the heros of the story, is advised to tell Dronacharya (A mighty learned man who is also a great warrior from the enemy camp) that Dronacharya’s son Ashwathama has died. The intent behind this was to make Dronacharya so distraught with grief that he would lose the will to fight.

Yudhishthira is known to be an extremely honourable person and also one who has never been untruthful his entire life. He refuses to tell a lie. His younger brother Bhima, tries a different approach and kills an elephant named Ashwathama and starts shouting “Ashwathama is dead!” Dronacharya, knowing that Yudhishthira does not lie, asks him whether this was true. Yudhishthira says “Yes Ashwathama is dead, but not your son”, the second part of his sentence was however drowned in the noise of the war. Some say that Yudhishthira did it purposely, and paid the price for this negative karma later in his life. Others say that Lord Krishna ensured that there was enough noise at that time when Yudhishthira spoke the second part of the sentence. Whatever the reason, Dronacharya was killed due to this statement.

Whenever I see dashboards and look at leaders relying heavily on dashboards, I am often reminded of this story. Do not get me wrong, Dashboards are important, however I remember several occasions, when dashboards presented by very able and capable people have broken apart on a little sensible and some advanced statistical questioning. Today, when more and more decisions are being taken under the mighty names of Big Data, Analytics, Statistical modelling etc, there is an even bigger need to occasionally go back and question the premise of the calculations and the inferences. 

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Try it out. One of the following might not be working correctly (List based on discussions across industries and companies) :

1. Your very able and capable Senior person has no clue how the dashboard was built- What was the premise for comparisons etc.? Obviously he/she is more concerned with the results. When he/she in turn goes back to the next level, they turn out to be clueless as well. A deeper inquiry reveals that several layers below a bright and perky not so experienced person is the one who did some changes recently in the Dashboard, which threw the original premise of the calculations out of the box

2.  Are you the leader who doesn’t like to hear negative news Not only that, the person who brings in the bad news is surely going to lose his job? If this describes you, then chances are many in your direct reporting line emulate this behavior and therefore don’t be surprised if the dashboard you receive is an amalgamation of “Ashwathama is dead” applied at various levels within your teams

3. The person who controls the dashboard is the most powerful person in your team? If this is true, think about it, where did they get the power from?…… “Ashwathama is dead” may be a more common occurrence in your organization than you may like to believe.

4.  Your dashboard systems were designed 10 years ago and many of the premise used in the older design are no longer true

5.  Your dashboard team understands traditional dashboards, however in the rush to embrace Predictive analytics and big data, have wrongly applied some statistical techniques.

I could go on, the list is long. The true use of dashboards is when the premise and the logic behind the red, yellow, greens is well understood and a more subjective discussion happens on the cause of a certain data point. It is not enough to question the “Red”, but equally important to question the “Green” to make doubly sure that the dashboard does truly and correctly reflect the situation in the Organization.

Reena Dayal Yadav

Reena Dayal Yadav works as a Director for the The Garage India, an intrapreneurial Channel for Microsoft. She is also a published author of the book, Innovation Magic – “The Science and Art of Innovation Management”.