Monday, February 2, 2015

How great leaders inspire action

Came across this great talk by Simon Sinek. He has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Conflicts are good for the workplace...

For many, conflict immediately invokes thoughts of hostility, shouting matches, or even negative relationships. Certainly, this is not what I am suggesting as good for the workplace. Conflict is a natural process of communication and facilitates the sharing of divergent point of views.  The process of getting multiple perspectives on any issue is critical to identifying problems, designing interventions, and producing optimal solutions.  Without conflict, you tend to have groupthink, you discourage innovation, and you discourage learning, none of which are good for a productive work environment. Many years ago I recall an executive in our group who while we were in the early part of discussion of an important issue would agree with the other senior executive without really having a proper discussion and blurt out "Yep, we are aligned". Nothing would irritate me more. I am all for teamwork and being collaborative, but it is also important to create an environment at workplace where people can speak their mind, debate and disagree vigorously but finally get on-board on a direction that is either consensus based or majority opinion based and at times following the original marching orders (because the CEO said so), but atleast you have weighed the pros and cons of a direction openly.

Recently, I was watching a 1995 interview of Steve Jobs called "Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview" released few years ago and he describes this beautifully in one portion of the interview. It is a must see for anyone leading a team building a product or even building a great team. Here is the excerpt from that interview where he discusses it.

"Designing a product is keeping 5000 things in your brain -- these concepts--and fitting them all together and kind of continuing to push to fit them together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently. And it's that process that is the magic. And so we had a lot of great ideas when we started, but what I've always felt that a team of people doing something they really believe in is like--is like when I was a young kid there was a widowed man that lived up the street. And he was in his 80s. He was a little scary-looking. And I got to know him a little bit. I think he might have paid me to mow his lawn or something. And one day he said, "Come on into my garage. I want to show you something." And he pulled this dusty rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. And he said, "Come on with me." We went out to the back and we got some--just some rocks, some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and a little bit of grit powder. And we closed the can up. And he turned this motor on and said, "Come back tomorrow." And this can was making, you know, a racket as the stones went around. And I came back the next day. And we took-- we open the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in, through rubbing against each other like this, creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks. And that's always been in my mind. My metaphor for a team working really hard on something they're passionate about--is that it's through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together, they polish each other and they polish the ideas. And what comes out are these really beautiful stones..." 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Behind The Scenes Peek Into The Tesla Factory

Wired released a series of cool videos in July 2013 that give a behind the scenes peek into the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California and how Model S is manufactured from scratch. You will see how coils of aluminum are converted into blanks which are then fabricated into car bodies using in-house automated large stamping lines. It also provides an overview of the totally automated paint line and body assembly line along with the general vehicle assembly line. One of the amazing things you will notice is the amount of vertical integration and the automation using advanced robots that we have achieved at the factory!



One of the interesting things that you will notice in the video below is that all the vehicle testing including shake and rattle testing is done indoors. Since Model S is an 100% electric car and has zero emissions, we can do all these tests inside the factory unlike ICE cars.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Rich Man

It was a rainy night and John Records was driving up north from Golden Gate Bridge and he saw someone on the side of the street seeking a ride. John was not very sure, but nevertheless he stopped and asked the stranger where he wanted to go and found out that the stranger’s destination was in the same direction that he was heading. The stranger hopped in and along the ride they struck up a conversation. John learnt that he was homeless and was trying to get to COTS, an organization in Petaluma for the shelterless, before their dinner hours end. Eventually they made it to COTS and the stranger thanked John for the ride. John stuck around to see what happens. The stranger ran up to the desk and enquired if he had made it in time for the dinner. Another homeless man standing around there told him that he had missed it. The stranger stood there in disappointment knowing that he would have to spend rest of the cold rainy night in hunger. Seeing the disappointment on his face, the other homeless man said, “I have a hardboiled egg in my pocket. I can share that with you…”

One of the meanings of the word “rich” in the dictionary is “having wealth or abundant possessions”. We generally assume that people who have lot of material wealth are rich, but what if they are poor in spirit. The sense of void and inadequacy in their lives perhaps drives them to fill it with more worthless junk that they really don’t need. For someone viewing from outside they seem to be enjoying their life of affluence, but hardly is their cup overflowing. I would say the homeless man in the story who was willing to share his egg is far richer than many people we know.

We are all in this rat race called life, where we are always in a hurry to get somewhere or get something done. We all started out with dreams in our hearts of doing some great things in life. For lot of us, perhaps, life did not turn out to be the way we dreamed it. Most of things that we have earned are a fruit of hard work and tenacity. So we have a sense of entitlement towards where we are and what we have achieved. But in my opinion, inspite of the hard work and merit, we are a product of what I call “rising up to the moment”. Life presented us with circumstances, opportunities, moments that we seized and made the best of. Where we are is the result of a string of such events. But there are many unfortunate people in this world who live in circumstances where these moments don’t present itself. So I feel it becomes a moral responsibility for us who are fortunate to share our time, talent or treasure and lend a helping hand. Some of you may argue there is so much poverty in this world and that someone puny like you and I really cannot impact it. Didn't some of us set up out to do great things in life? Perhaps we will, perhaps we won’t, but deriving inspiration from what Mother Theresa said, even if not everyone of us will do great things in life, we all can do small things with great love.

Now, even if you don’t agree with the moral responsibility argument, do it for your own self anyway, because it is well documented that lending a helping hand can elevate mood in most people. This phenomenon is called “the helper's high", a euphoric feeling, followed by a longer period of calm, experienced after performing a kind act. This has been assessed biologically in brain imaging studies and has also been looked at in research on endorphins. So do it and you will discover that small helping actions, like lending a hand to a neighbor or a stranger can be refreshing. Oscar Wilde put it, echoing Plato, "To be good is to be in harmony with oneself." Thoreau wrote, "Goodness is the only investment that never fails." So just do it!

By the way, John Records who gave the ride to the homeless man in my story above went on to join COTS, Petaluma and is now the Executive Director there doing some remarkable work.

Disclosure: Story of the homeless man was narrated by John Records.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thrilled about this historic partnership between Tesla Motors & Toyota



I am excited about this news that was announced yesterday at Tesla in our Palo Alto office about the partnership between Tesla Motors and Toyota Corporation. It was great to see someone like Akio Toyoda (President, Toyota Corporation and grandson of the Toyota founder) at Tesla (and of course our Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger). As part of the partnership, Tesla will be purchasing the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI, a plant based on joint venture between Toyota and the former General Motors Corp) in Fremont, California which was recently shut down. The decision is a reversal of fortune for the Plant & Fremont to some extent, which only weeks ago lost 4,700 jobs when Toyota halted production of cars and trucks at this plant after GM pulled out of the partnership due to their financial woes. We will primarily be using this plant to build Model S, our new 4-door sedan, and also future cars that could come out of this partnership. The revival of NUMMI will create perhaps 1,000 jobs. Toyota will also be investing $50 million into Tesla which is a huge seal of approval and confidence in our company! Go Tesla!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Managing Supply Chain in a Tough Economy

I came across last week this 4-part (35 min total length) video presentation on youtube of Dr. Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management, Editor Emeritus, Journal of Operations Management, which took place December 2008 at the McKimmon Center on NC State's campus during a Supply Chain Resource Cooperative event. In this presentation he shares and presents preliminary survey results of supply chain managers and the actions they are taking and not taking during this economic downturn.

Most of things he discusses aligns with what I emphasized in my last post "5 Ways to mitigate Supply Chain Risk in this Economy" and also provides additional depth and breadth. His presentation is research based and the solution he prescribes revolves around a) getting past the finger pointing and taking a step back and looking at the whole chain to come up with creative ways to address risks and opportunities, b) collecting intelligence on the financial health of the suppliers & customers, c) continuing to challenge the data available and its relevance, d) working collaboratively with cross-functional teams to come up with change in business terms and conditions with critical suppliers and customers who are in trouble, e) and doing all this with sense of urgency and partnership mindset.

I would highly recommend that you set aside 35 minutes of your precious time to see these 4 videos.

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Enjoy.

Roshan

Monday, February 9, 2009

5 Ways to mitigate Supply Chain Risk in this Economy

Nortel Networks Corp, once a telecommunications equipment giant, after years of being under tremendous pressures and trying numerous reorganization and cost-cutting actions to improve its competitive position, filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors on Jan 14th 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was expected to pay creditors $107 million in bond interest that week and owed bondholders more than $3.8 billion.

Now why is this an important incident? The implosion of huge telecom companies like Nortel has widespread negative repercussions not only for their customers, partners and suppliers but also for competitors to an extent. For example, most of the telecommunications equipment manufacturers have outsourced their manufacturing to their contract manufacturing partners like Flextronics, Sanmina-SCI Corp., Jabil Circuits to name few. Although these contract manufacturers are huge players by themselves, an accounts receivable situation and inventory exposure in millions of dollars due to bankruptcy of a major customer could break their back. This will lead to disruption of supply chain for their other customers as well.

But most Tier 1 contract manufacturers have their customer portfolio well diversified so they could probably survive one or two implosions. That is not the case with smaller component suppliers, especially start ups. Start ups generally have one or two customers who drive majority of their revenue. And losing 50-80% of their revenue stream may take them down, and if you happened to be using them in upcoming or released products then it is a huge supply risk and time-to-market risk for your company.

Here are 5 ways to mitigate the supply chain risk in this economy:

1) Validate and monitor the financial & operational health of your key suppliers: In this economy we can expect more businesses to go under so supply chain managers and strategic sourcing managers need to place emphasis on reviewing operations data, financial statements and running "credit checks" on their strategic suppliers. If the companies are based out of countries like Mexico, Malaysia, India, Taiwan or China and their records are not public, then use 3rd party information gathering services. Depending upon what you find out start developing secondary sources if they are a sole-sourced supplier. Require your suppliers to do the same thing with their suppliers as well. This is not easy by the way and it can cost small amount of money but the due diligence is worth it.

2) Conduct Bill-of-Materials (BOM) risk analysis: When a new product is moving from prototype to pilot phase there should be thorough analysis conducted on the components and suppliers being used on the BOM. Most of the sometimes, it is during the new product introduction phase when start-ups with new and advanced technology get used as suppliers. Verification of the financial condition of such start-ups if they are sole-sourced suppliers should be integral part of the risk analysis.

3) Monitor quality more aggressively: When times get tough, suppliers may look for ways to cut corners to maintain their margins so it is important to increase the frequency of the quality audits. Physical site visits during quality audits can also be used as a time to get the feel on their overall business condition.

4) Partnership mindset: In this tough economic climate “partnership mindset” that was preached about during good times becomes even more important. “Let’s just get the lowest price we can” attitude is self-defeating because you’re not building a relationship in which your strategic supplier or partner is looking out for your best interests as well as their own. Remember that this is an ecosystem and losing some of the critical players could shift the equilibrium to your disadvantage. Partnership mindset will open up opportunities for new ways to reduce costs, improve efficiency and quality.

5) Make an investment: If you have a start-up supplier whose products are being used in your future releases and they are in financial doldrums due to tough economy, then invest in them after conducting a business analysis. If you think their technology will be in great demand in future and key to your future products as well, then buying a stake in them will not only secure your supply chain but also open up a future revenue stream.

Those are 5 ways to mitigate supply chain risk in this economy. I would be interested in knowing what other strategies are being employed to reduce supply chain risk related to suppliers. Please feel free to comment to this discussion.

Roshan