Uncertainty

There’s something funny about uncertainty. In some people it brings out the worst and some just seem to thrive on it. Right now my organization is going through global reorganization. The aim is to have a flatter organization in place that can respond faster to customer requests and changes in the market. While the intention behind the change has been communicated and reinforced in all sorts of ways, when I look around me, I find it intriguing to see a workforce that is becoming increasingly stressed from this impending change.

I should be stressed. There’s a very high chance that my boss is going to change, which in itself is not so bad, apart from the fact that in my 3+ years in Ericsson, the next boss would be my 6th one. I should probably also be worried about the fact that while most of the technical people are clearly mapped into new roles, its general people who do fluffy jobs like me that are not so clearly aligned in the new organizations blueprint. I am sure the guys at the top has already thought this through but people at my level and those below still don’t have a clear concept of where we are going to be parked.

All this uncertainty has brought out different sides to the people around me. There’s the gossip mongers, for whom gossip/rumor rules the day. There are the pessimistic ones who are convinced that they are going to find themselves out of a job soon. And then there are the optimistic one’s who are hoping that a flatter organization and a bigger region consisting of countries like Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Vietnam would mean a bigger pool of career opportunities.

As for me, I am actually enjoying this. I am hoping that in the process of becoming flatter, we’ll have more fun with work, be more in close contact with the people who make the decisions that ultimately affect our careers. In other words, instead of worry I am thriving at this opportunity to bring about change faster in the organization. As I find myself in this unusual stance of actually enjoying this ride, I can’t help but examine the reasons why.

I learned how to thrive in uncertainty from two of my ex-bosses. One was a Pakistani who had worked all over the world and been through more than his share of uncertainty. The other was a Parsi of Indian origin, a hard working man for whom everything had to be done yesterday. These two men, Jak and Karl, influenced me and my outlook in more ways than I can possibly ever articulate.

Javid Ali Khan (JAK) was the marketing director at Beximco Textiles division. He was there to market the fledgling company and bring in business that would help it to break even. Before that he had started up projects in Kenya, England and Dubai. Long before that he taught at a Karachi university and then went on to serve as the youngest foreign diplomat under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The youngest son of the last Nawab of Delhi, Jak had an ingrained sense of quiet dignity and style about him.

Karl Munshi was the Managing Director & Chairman of the Bangladesh unit of AP Moller Maersk when I met him. I first dealt with him as a business partner and later on decided to go work for him when he casually hinted at his interest to hire me on. Karl was legendary for his work ethic, his quirky sense of humor, his quick temper and straight forward dealing with people.

I learned a lot about corporate life watching these two men. I soaked up their work ethic, their style of working, their impatience for achievement, the way they couldn’t wait to get on to the next project, their anal persistence on perfection. No matter how much I say it’ll never be enough, personalities that big, that charismatic can never be explained in words.

I was lucky in that I not only worked under them, giving me the perfect opportunity to learn from them directly, but I was blessed and lucky in that I got both of them as life long friends. We kept in touch through the years long after I stopped working for them. We corresponded, talked on the phone, planned and visited each other when we happened to be in the same country at the same time. I asked for advice and they would indulge my eccentricities while gently guiding me back towards my goals when I lost my way. They believed in me when I lost faith in myself.

Jak had an interesting saying that he would repeat to his team often in times of high stress and fast paced changes – “when rape becomes inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it”. No use worrying about something that you can’t help anyway. So take a chill pill, sit back, breathe and continue doing what you are doing, or better yet, find a more interesting challenge to take on.

Like I said, I learned life from these two guys. I learned about uncertainty and how to handle uncertainties. Stress and how to manage stress to a large degree J If I try to sum it up than I would probably have to say – uncertainty is just another opportunity in disguise. It’s the opportunity to branch out, to take a different road, to try a new approach, to test and see if the existing system works or needs an overhaul. In short, uncertainty is exciting, not stressful. Meanwhile just remember “Breathe…. This too shall pass”  🙂

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Posted on May 25, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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