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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Organisational Roles for 21st century Business

One of the key questions faced by leaders and managers is how to tap new opportunities through creative and innovative use of resources. The dimensions of this question are very vast. Some teams within the organization seem to be regularly innovative and creative in identifying and encashing opportunities in the business environment. Some others are lost in dealing with the daily grind. Organizations seize opportunities much better under some leaders than others. Why is this so? Is there any particular way or method to structure the organization to identify and tap new opportunities?

Organisations comprise:
  1. Skill sets: These represent areas of expertise available within the organisation. So Accounting is a skill set and so is Production.
  2. Relationships: These represent how the skill sets are interlinked to achieve the objectives of the organisation.

Tapping new opportunities requires developing "new" skill set or "new" inter-relationship between skill sets to achieve the new objectives. This determines how effectively we can tap the opportunity. If the "new" is a radical depart from the "old" we have disruptive change.


Unleash the "scouts": The job of the scout is to explore the "new" and translate it into meaningful opportunity relevant to the team and communicate it to the team. Organizations seldom have "identified" or marked" scouts. I cannot comment if scouts can be trained or they are born but I can definitely tell you that they have unique set of skills that are hard to find.

Bringing in the commandos: Commando teams have been seen in movies and their potential glorified. Here is a recap of characteristics of commando teams in organizations:

  • They are "multi-skilled team".
  • They have "authority" to call-off or take forward the venture.
  • They are expert trainers (they have to train people to take their roles).
  • They have very detailed knowledge of organizational capabilities.
    organizations use Commando units as a pilot. Commando units often "bootleg" resources throughout organizations for the new venture. Scouts work closely with commando units initially. As soon as the success is ensured scouts move out of the business to get back to scouting.

Bring in the "bureaucrats": Bureaucrats is a wrong term to use (as it maligned) but these are system specialists. They setup vital processes that take the focus away from day-to-day details to value adding activities. They create skill sets at required points in the chain. Commandos usually do not form the systems as their multi-skilled approach is in direct contradiction to this concept.

Setting the course: During the course of time a leader emerges and he sets the course of this venture.


Losing the scouts: Scouts are hard to find. Organization often lets go of the scouts during the phase it is involved with setting up the processes. Motivation for the scouts comes from the "new". Indulgence with the old is frustrating for these. Scouts' job is different as often they come up with nothing. Organizations set up wrong expectations from scouts similar to what can be done for process based skills. Scouts cannot be put to 90% success rate rule. It stifles creativity. Do you know who the scouts are in your organizations?

Forgetting the commandos: For each new venture in the initial stage a lot of work is done unsystematically. Often the team does not know what are the challenges in store for them and are faced with precarious situations. Organizations that jump into new ventures minus the commandos fall flat because no amount of systems and processes can replace the thinking-on-the-feet commando. If luck prevails and there are no significant challenges in the new venture (then it hardly is a new venture) then it’s an exception. Are there enough commandos in your organization?
Morphing the commandos: After successfully starting the venture the organization expects the commandos to man and run it as efficiently as the bureaucrats, a tough ask. Organization almost always will lose able commandos to either bureaucrat or they may just leave the organization. Have you seen a commando sitting in as a bureaucrat?
Forgetting the bureaucrats: organizations based on commando culture have their survival dependent on key people. These people are often identified with the organization, but as soon as they leave they leave a huge hole in the organization. The skill of bureaucrats is that they embed organization knowledge into systems thus making organization's survival independent of the people. If you are working for company that survived for a few years, I bet you have seen them somewhere up there and wondered why they went there. Have you?
Leadership dilemma: Typically “bureaucrat” leaders prefer “bureaucrat” top management and so on. This is not conscious but a commando “understands” the working style of other “commando” better than others for obvious reasons. This kind of working is unfavorable for the organizations interest in the long term. Intuitively it seems that leaders are a different breed in themselves.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Smart Cards

SMART CARDS are something that have always intrigued me. In fact the trouble started when I was looking for a credit card so that I have less money to carry around in the wallet. As usual my bank refused to give me a credit card. Soon afterwards they again started perstering me with offers on cards as diverse as required. So here was a list of cards I am supposed to carry:
  1. Debit card for Bank A
  2. Debit card for Bank B
  3. Pertol consumer card from co P.
  4. Petrol user card from Co. Q.
  5. Cellphone gift card.
  6. My Book club card.

And yet I dont have a credit card. Regularly I receive a lot of offers from my cellco and other co.s which offer me great discounts if I show that card at a certain restaurant. When I decide to go to a restaurant I forget if I have a discount offer for that restaurant and if that was from my book club or it was from my petrol pump company or my supermart. Welcome to the card heaven!! This is the 21st century.

Introducing a high security Java card. This one will do a hell lot of things for you and it will be the only card you will carry. Look at this:


  1. Works with ATMs of all banks.
  2. Works with credit/debit card companies. (How does the customer select whether he wants to pay by debit card or credit card?)
  3. Works with fill-up card / loyalty card machines etc.
  4. Works as an Id. has your foto on it. Stores various important numbers like passport number driving licence number.
  5. Has your thumb digital imprint on it for verification. May be Iris scan too!
  6. Has a unique number that can be used by cellcos and other cos to enable their offers on your card.
  7. Functions as a Voters ID.
  8. Can enable access to your computer over the network which is the basic concept of the SUN JAVA card.
  9. Can be used as the Cell-SIM for CDMA/GSM and other phones.
  10. You have to plug into your Movie theater to open the seat which naturally disables the cell connection.
  11. Is put into a special close-fit charged cover in hospitals which can be read by the magnetic/door access systems.

Is it utopia? Are we in heaven? Is it possible? What could be the problems with such a system? Well welcome to digital reality!!

MECHANISM BASICS: (These need to be revamped of course)

In this new system, unlike the old, the card is more powerful than the machine that accesses the card information. So our machine is dumb or semi-smart. Which means that it can access only a certain information form our card. This it does in presence of two thumb imprints. One of the operator designated and other of the holder of the card. Without the thumb scanner of the card holder the card will not divulge any details.

  1. How to maintain the integrity of the machines? The machine may be tampered with to access different data from the card and thus compromising the security of the card holder.
  2. How will the card be disabled when it is lost/stolen etc.? One solution: Use an access machine with card number and the users thumb imprint which will automatically disable the card. A wrong usage increases sequrity requirement by say asking for finger prints of two fingers and three wrong attempts wipes the data off the card making the card useless.

Physically, the card would be made up of four components:

  1. the main card.
  2. the SIM attachment
  3. the semi-SIM (SMS only)
  4. close fit cover battery

Main Card
Main card would consist of a memory device that can store a large quantum of data. Primary required data can be classified as:

  • Identification data: Voter ID, Passport No. Driving Licence No., finger prints, iris scans, signature copy, digital photograph, distinctive characteristics etc.
  • Service Information: like bank details for credit and debit card, club id card and premissions granted by these service providers to the card holder.
  • Access information: Details like which computer the data of the person is stored etc.# Details: Driving Licence details, Passport details, Voter details, Address phone number email etc.
  • Transitory data: This data may be added or deleted by the user by using a computer / card access machine. If the card is lost and new card is made then the transitory data would be lost.(why? Maybe unless the card is backed up)

The edges would be magnetised as required by the credit card/debit card swipe mechanisms.

Most of the places this card without the SIM / Semi-SIM / Cover will be used.

The top of the card will carry the photo and some details of the card-holder as a requirement of ID card.

The top will also have printed the Voter ID number or one CArd identification number. Which will be public in nature.

Will consist of a processor

Will have "wired-in" / "burnt-in" instructions to check the validity of the machine accessing the information. The processor will use the power from the host machine. Will reject any transaction if the host machine fails the ID test. If the host machine passes the processor will monitor and log the data accessed while granting permissions to the host machine for every access.

Processor will compute the best deals for the card holder when used in transactions like credit card debit card / money spent.

Processor will maintain a clock thats in-sync with the central world clock.

SIM attachment

SIM attachment will be housed in the card but it can be removed manually creating a small notch in the shape of the SIM.

The SIM attached to the card, and the cover battery put on will make a homing device since the SIM signal can be tracked by the Cell Ground Stations.

In areas where cell phones are not allowed the card will function only when the SIM is attached to the card.

ex. The movie theater seats will open for seating only when the card is inserted into the chair access slot and kept there. The chair access slot will check for SIM presence without which the seat remains closed.

ex2. In petrol pumps, cars where cell phones are not allowed machines will check for the presence of the SIM on the cards.

Semi-SIM attachment

This allows the user to send and receive SMS on his cell phone. Also works as a pseudo-SIM for Blue-tooth / WAP / access. This however puts the cell-instrument on the silent mode. Looks attaches exactly like the standard SIM.

This may be used for incoming calls with a message to the caller indicating the status of the called party.

Close-Fit Cover Battery

This covers the card totally and plugs-in to the card at certain points. These points serve to fix the card tothe cover.

This attachment together becomes a play / game device. We have games on parallel with the get-a-date game famous in Japan. So it may have two/three LEDs for adding fun to the experience.

This cover has a data port connection for connecting to a computer / card access machine. With the connection in place the crd-holder can input transitory data to the card. Game data is transitory data.

The card cover is dumb and can be interchanged. Any cover can be used with any card. So on purchase the card may come with two or three covers depending upon the requirement of the user.

Card cover can be charged just like a cell phone using the same technology.

CONCLUSION: Will it become a reality?

Companies are working on a multi purpose cards. But one never knows if thats going to take off. But at least they are thinking and that is a good sign. The key hurdle I believe is to make this card take off, even if some one can make such a card. Technology is not a hurdle here, acceptability is. If someone can solve that problem the entire concept can work like a dream.

More than that our purses will not be jammed with cards from different companies. The money part however will still remain!! ;)