Tuesday, 16 August 2016

And The Clock Struck 10 ....

This is not an Agatha Christie Novel but the case was really queer and strange and it did need some Hercule Poiroting to solve this one !

For professional reasons, let me keep the names anonymous and let us suppose that this happened in an organization named XYZ. 

But let me tell you this. 

Everything what  I have written is 100% true  and I have personally experienced it. So that is it . 

 Without any more introduction, here I go ....

Company XYZ has only one big customer and it is of utmost importance that they be kept happy. There is a proprietary software developed by XYZ which has evolved over the last 5-6 years and this software is the backbone of the company's operations for their customer.  The software is being used by about 5000 data entry operators through a web based front end.  The heaviest usage is from 6 pm to 10.30 pm. 

One fine evening,  a support engineer reported that the application is running slow.  The core team did not pay much attention to this and there were some deflections in the turn around time of the operations. 

The next day, again at about 7 pm in the evening, the support engineers reported slowness in the system. The core developers had left the office. The techsupport team held the situation and tried to do some minor tweaking of the configuration of the application server.  It was Ok for 1 hour or so but again it became slow. 

The next 2 days again the same problem faced at 7.30 pm and the disruption continued till 9.45 pm. 

Things became bad. 

The core team went into a huddle that weekend . 

Developer A : What should we do ? 

Project Manager : Let us rollback the last application change that we have made.

The Service Level Agreement of the Turn Around Time went for a toss that week. The customer was livid. The Senior management were worried . 

"What is wrong ? Why are we not able to fix this ???"

"It Should not happen again Mam! We have rolled back the changes "

It was Monday . The day of the peak load. 

The application again went slow. From 7 pm . 

The core team looked into the server logs, the timeout functions , the memory leakages and fixed certain things which seemed to be the problem. 

After doing all the changes, the application worked fine from 10 pm after reboot. 

"It should be fine now !" The technical team heaved a sigh of relief.

But again the next day , at 7.20 pm , the software crawled ! By that time, the senior management had been called up several times by the top management of the customer. They were very unhappy and wanted to revoke the contract. 

The core team then focused on the network and the ISP provider. 

"Ah ! The bandwidth is getting choked ! We have to increase the bandwidth"

The bandwidth was increased immediately and at about 10.10 pm, the application started working smoothly .

Everybody heaved a sigh of relief. 

But .... again the next evening at 6.50 pm, the application just stopped working!

"You all are a bunch of fools sitting here ! It is already 8 days and we have not been able to figure out what is wrong !"

"It must be something wrong with the firewall then" The Project  Manager mumbled. "We have looked at everything ! The application, the servers, the network. We even checked the memory leakage and adjusted the server . Everything is eliminated .... !"

It was Friday .A high level emergency meeting was called.  The IT, the operations team were silent.... No one knew how this puzzle would be solved . 

"We just have this weekend to do whatever we have to do. On Monday, I have been called by the Customer . They might cancel the contract. And with that , the jobs of about 4500 employee are at stake ..." The MD said in a tight voice. 

Everyone was silent.  Acfter some time , everybody apart from the core IT team dispersed. 

The Project Manager was going thru a nightmare which did not seem to end . He sat there , his head bowed down on the desk , held by his hands.....

There was one young , bright engineer in the team . He seemed to be deep in thought.... 

"Just wondering ..."

"What ... ? "

"Everyday, the application slows down between 6.30 to 7 pm . Then we do some fixes and again it is up and running from 10 pm ... And we are happy .... but again the next day, it slows down at the same time .... "

"We all know this ... why are you repeating this ... adding salt to our wound ...think of something which we can do ... but What ????"

"There is a pattern ... " the young engineer mumbled  . 

The PM ignored his bantering

"Let us get down to work. Try to look at all the aspects .... let us not leave any stone unturned ..."

"But Sir, we have already done whatever we could do ! I really cannot thin k of anything more ..." The team wailed . 

"None of you will go home . Let us try again..." The PM said . Though he knew that his team was right.  They did not have a clue what was going wrong. 

After everyone went back to their seats from the meeting room, the young engineer still sat there. Thinking. 

There is a pattern. And the pattern is the clue to this mystery. He has to unravel it. 

He will investigate and get to the bottom of it.
He promised himself. 

And he started writing the chronology of events from day 1 of the fiasco. 

He created an excel sheet where he created columns for date, time, event, action taken and result and started filling it up vigorously. 

And as he finished the data, his roving eyes and clear mind started seeing the pattern.  And yes ! He was right ! Every evening, when things went slow, the team found out solutions to it and fixed things. But while doing so, it was already 10 pm and things became normal . And they thought that the application was working well because of the fix done by them. 

His eyes shone . 

That mean that the remedial actions or fixes did NOT work !  The software worked by itself after 10 pm ......

But  WHY ?? That was the million dollar question. And the weird part was that it was working flawlessly 2 weeks back ... 

He closed his eyes.  he must think . Think hard . 

Facts and figures went past his brain like slides of a power point presentation. 

Everything seemed blurred . 

There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel ...

All the application changes done till 3 weeks back have been rolled back.  All the database has been cleaned up, indexed, tested on the staging server... 

Then what ? What else has happened 2 weeks back which is out of the ordinary?

He started browsing thru his emails . He has to get some clue ... some clue ... 

Innocent emails stared at him. Some complaints about some scanners not working, an email about data not being fetched .... 3-5 complaints about previous data not being made available for data churn for warehouse. 

Ah... ! All innocent emails ... Everything had been fixed. People just keep on complaining, a smirk came to his face. The data had been provided a few days back. They had been after the IT team for this .  He saw his PM's note about the data being made available. It was a huge piece of data , he had replied , but it was all done now and the people can process this in the warehouses . 

Suddenly something clicked in his mind. His eyes were wide open now.

He opened the email. Looked hard at the date . 

It was 2 weeks back .  But ... this data had nothing to do with the data entry application ... but .... and why 7 pm to 10 pm ? What happened during that time?

He remembered his encounter with the warehouse manager a couple of times. 

"The warehouse application is extremely slow after you have put in the data ... do look into this..."

But the core team did not have any time to look into this. They had bigger problems in hand. 

Yes. It was falling into place. 

He closed his eyes again .

The warehouse tables had been infused with millions of rows of data two weeks back. The warehouse application was running very slow. The warehouse table was in the same database schema where the data entry application was there .... that means it was using the same memory space ... The maximum load of  concurrent users is between 6 pm to 10 pm ... that was the time memory was totally swapped up by the warehousing application. Though the warehouse application was not used from 7.30 pm, but the database memory did not get released till 10 pm . And invariably, after doing some fixes, the team rebooted the database server around 10 pm. 

That was the time when the memory got released and things worked smoothly. 

So, they have to do something about the warehouse tables. Maybe performance tuning of the SQL queries and they would have to do some structural changes. 

But from tomorrow, till the time the problem gets fixed, it the warehouse application is stopped at 6.30 pm and the database server is restarted, the problem will not occur. 

He smiled. He had to talk to the Project Manager.

The next day, the warehouse application was stopped at 6.30 pm and the database server was restarted. 

The application ran smoothly ! Everyone smiled and heaved a sigh of relief.

After that , the load was balanced. Now it i again running as smoothly as before.

So, dear readers, what do you think ? 

What accolade should the young Hercule Poirot be given ? 

Cheers !

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Teeny Weeny : Kneel Down

It was 2 am in the morning.

The night guard adjusted his muffler and  lit a biri and then started his 9th round in the deserted school campus.

As he  passed  the kintergarden section, he looked inside the classroom.

Like every night, the kid was kneeling down ... with his face towards the wall.


Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.     
Looking forward to your comments.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Still... I love you !

One of my short stories ... If you like it do write your comments ...

Still I love you

Rana walked towards the escalator of the Kalighat Metro Station. As the home bound stream of people jostled past him, Rana put his hand in the trouser pocket to re assure himself. The feel of the three crispy one thousand rupee notes made him strangely elated.  Instead of  taking the usual staircase, he got on the escalator today.  As he slowly went up, he smiled. Today he felt different.

And he will make sure that Neeta and Anu too felt different today.

He walked out of the Metro station exit and walked towards Rashbehari Avenue. There were makeshift sari shops on the footpath on both sides of the road. There were shops selling pretty frocks and suits. But Rana did not even look at them.  Today he will buy from KC Das and Sons.

While shopping for Durga Puja a few months back, Neeta had looked longingly at the display of KC Das.

“The red and black Dhakai is so beautiful !”  She stood in front of the mannequin and then looked at Rana excitedly .

“Shuncho, should I go and ask the price ? I know you will not be able to buy it , but I am curious… !”

And without waiting for an answer, Neeta and Anu had walked inside the shop. Neeta had touched the saris on display, looked at the price tags and made a face. Both mother and the eight year old daughter had walked hand in hand towards the kids section and admired the colourful , fluffy frocks and dresses.

Neeta had the salesman show them to her. After touching, feeling , looking, she said “No… somehow I do not like the colours and the cut … !”  . She walked out of the shop with a stoic face, and clutched Rana’s hands and went into peals of laughter.

“See … how I fooled the salesman … !”

But that day and on many such days , Rana could not laugh with her.

Rana worked as a reservation clerk in the West Bengal Tourism department. He sat at the reservation counter in the Chowringhee office from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm,  booking bus trips to Sundarbans, Murshidabad, Bishnupur and Shantiniketan. During lunchtime he took out his small alumunium square flat tiffin box and ate three parathas and alu bhaja.  Beginning of the month, sometimes Neeta would pack luchi for him accompanied with egg curry.  As the month progressed, the tiffin would get frugal , with maybe just 4 slices of scarcely buttered bread.

Neeta could not be blamed.

She had to manage the monthly bills of the household of two adults and a kid with Rs 25000, which Rana handed over to her dutifully at the beginning of the month.

Every month, after handing over Rs 3500 to the landlord , Neeta said “Can we shift to a different locality ? This place is too expensive !”  

But Rana could not make her understand  that this two roomed 400 square feet flat in the  interiors of Behala was the best they could get within this budget .
And their lifeline … their little Anu was going to an English Medium school. She was a big girl now, studying in class 3.  She was her teacher’s pet. But the tuition fees, the text books, stationary …fish, occasional mutton and chicken , vegetables ,  everything had to be provided out of the Rs 25000 !

Last month, when Neeta’s cousin sister got married, Neeta said “What do we give her as a present ?  I am her elder sister … can’t give her just anything .. “

“What about a sari ? “

“A good silk Sari will cost around Rs  2000 … ! We cannot give anything less than that … … you are his elder brother in law … !”

“Don’t worry I have a fixed deposit of Rs 10,000, I will break it tomorrow and then you can go ahead and buy !” Rana offered.

 “I am fed up of living under such tight budget !  Why can’t we be like others ?  I too want Anu to wear nice dresses, pack  pastries in her lunch box and watch a movie in a multiplex ! I am fed up … really fed up !”

“Tell me one thing,  Mr Mondal also works in the same office ,same post as yours , how come I see Mrs Mondal  wearing new saris every day ? Yesterday I saw her son  Montu in the park,  flaunting  his expensive sport shoe … !”  Neeta’s voice was taut.

Rana did not say anything.  Neeta knew the answer , didn’t she ? During such conversations, he always remained silent. And that irked Neeta even more.
“Fixed deposit ! You know that we have kept that for Anu’s admission to St. Teresa’s after 3 years . … !”

Anu opened the almirah and took out the peacock blue golden bordered silk sari which Rana had bought for her a year back when he had got bonus. Peacock blue was Neeta’s favourite colour. 

Her face had lit up when Rana gave it to her …

“But … I bought it for you …. !” Rana whispered.

“That’s OK … ! “ Neeta said gruffly. “You can buy me another one next year … “ She tried to smile.  “This sari will surely make my little sister very happy and  …it will save our prestige too … without breaking your fixed deposit …. “

Incidents like these, a sentence here, a word there , an untoward glance , a slight inflection in Neeta’s tone ,  small unfulfilled demands of  the little one, somehow filled up Rana’s mind and soul. He felt incompetent and incapable .

Was he foolish ?  As they say, should he be more “worldly wise” ? But he too did his bit did he not ? He had cut back on his cigarettes, the occasional buying of second hand Agatha Christie novels from the pavement of Theatre Road … !

So, today when a customer surreptitiously offered him Rs 3000 for giving him two tickets for the Sunderbans package tour,  he could not resist it.

“Dada, I have promised my wife “ he said “please do something ... “

“But there is just one seat left  !”  Rana said. He glanced at the register… there was another seat left … one passenger had just called up to cancel his reservation .

“”Please do something… “ the person pleaded and extended the two notes towards Rana.

Rana looked at him sharply… he looked around him and slowly , involuntarily, took the notes and kept it in his pocket.  His senses were numb. He acted as if in a stupor. Just like in the movies … in slow motion ….

But now his pace was extra fast as he approached the big and brightly decorated shop. He did not waste any time and walked out after buying a white fluffy frock for his little heartthrob Anu and a deep pink silk sari for Neeta. 

He wanted to see their excited and happy faces after they opened the packets. Ahh ! His soul was parched . It needed drops of their happiness . He will revel in their emotions of joy and exhilaration. And hopefully … his scorched  soul will become green again … with the musky , heady smell of their elation … !

He still had about Rs 500 left. 

“Taxi … !” Rana hailed a yellow cab.  He felt like a king .

Neeta and Anu were standing in the little balcony overlooking the road . Neeta was surprised to see him get down from the taxi. Rana looked up at her and smiled.

He swiftly climbed up the stairs. Neeta opened the door for him.

She looked so beautiful. She was wearing a simple red and white striped cotton sari. Her long, black, oiled hair was neatly folded in a bun. Sindoor on the middle parting of her hair, a small red bindi on her cute forehead … she looked like a goddess.  She deserves a better life .. Rana thought.

“Today is just the 25th of the month … have you got your salary already ?  How come you have come home in a taxi ? “ Neeta beamed .

Rana sat on the sofa cum bed to open his shoes. He kept the packets beside him. Little Anu came bounding up to him.

“Baba … Baba.. “ She was clutching a piece of paper in her hands .

“Anu … Let your Baba relax a bit … “ Neeta faked the admonishment towards Anu and smiled at Rana. 

“She has been so excited  since coming back from school … !”

Rana looked at their happy and glowing faces. 

They looked so content, satiated and thrilled !

“Baba … ! Look at this … I have got the first prize for my essay … You know , it will be published in the school magazine !! “ 

Anu squealed and thrust the sheet in Rana’s hands and put her arms around Rana’s neck.

“Go on … Read it … !” Neeta smiled and rolled her eyes up !

Rana read the title of the essay . “Honesty”.

Anu had described Rana in the essay. How he worked hard and how he was the most respected person in the colony as well as in his office due to his trait of honesty. In simple staccato, child like  sentences,  she had described her father and his lessons of honesty which he always taught Anu.

Rana looked at Anu’s face. She beamed at him expectantly. Rana embraced her tightly and wept. Neeta sat beside him and held them tight.

“I love you” she said in his ears. “Always remain like this…”

Neeta glanced at the packets.

“What are these ?”


Thursday, 7 July 2016

Teeny Weeny : Extract from a Memory

Today , I was rummaging thru my old documents and I chanced upon the following excerpt from an e Magazine which I used to run in one of my previous organizations .

There we had this concept of awarding a silver plaque on completion of 5 years and 10 years in the organization. Ashish Mathur had completed 10 years and had contributed this piece of poetry for the magazine.  I as the editor  had given him a reply ... with a poetry ...

I have removed the name of the organization for anonymity's sake ...  Hope you enjoy .....


Ashish Mathur completed 10 years on 1st November 2006 in XXX.  Find out his what he has to tell us on his journey so far …..

Ashish says :

The year was '96, it badly needed scratching, that itch...
10 months at a place? Enough - t'was time for a switch!
Right next door, with rarely a coming & hardly any going,
Was (I thought) quite oddly named - NetBase Computing!

Messers Rajiv Gupta and Ajay Sharma on Noida location
And Pramod Joshi manning in U.S. the sales function,
For well nigh a year we tried our level best with NGI
Prevailing in court when they refused to see eye-to-eye!

Followed projects like HPP, MOVE, eRetail, CXO, Syrius and Steton
Working with worthies like Gurmeet, Mohan*, Tarun*, Johns and Yamin,
(I could name so many more, but
Gentle reader, you just wouldn't know!)

There was the offshore boom, followed by the dot-bust,
When increments became scarce, but never so the trust.
Not a single layoff, never one on bench, lotsa hard work & honest toil,
Salutations Mr. Joshi, to all the naysayers you were the perfect foil!

Up sprung the SEPG, Ananya taking the helm, the goal a 3,
AMS framework founded by Arvind, meetings & action items by Rajiv;
Projects to be assessed whittled down to just eStore & BRG,
Suspense fueled by the ATMs, but success was our destiny!

From once-a-day email on dialup to an always-on broadband,
From 3 guys to 3-score and more everyday joining the gang;
NBI thru Syncata, then PQBS and now Snap-On
Man, what a ride - can't believe, just 10 years on!

Ananya, on behalf of everybody at XXX says :
Just 10 years on and still going strong,
I am sure  Ashish , the ride did not seem  long !

The number five made you jive
But the number 10 is so much fun !
From MOVE to Steton and now PlanView and EPC
We want you to do more , can’t you see ?

Eleven , twelve, thirteen , fourteen , fifteen

Wish you all these years in XXX and many more after the teens !


Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Importance of Team Leading

I have talked a lot about Leaders in my blog, mainly the people who are higher up in the organization. 

But I am sure that my readers understand that leadership is a quality which is not role or position specific.  Though I have written many posts which do depict the same - The little girl in the Mall (click here to read the post) being one of them - which one of the most popular posts of my blog. 

But in this post, I will write about a specific role which is a very very important one. The role of a Team Leader. And what makes a good Team leader. 

The definition of the team is : 

     A Team is a group of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. 

   And a Team Leader is the glue who keeps the team together :

·         Contact point for communication between team and management
·         Assists the team by immediately implementing changes that are within the bounds of the team

A Team leader MAKES a team and a team is made only when : 

  • Every member should feel that they are contributing
  • Every member should feel that others are contributing
  • Every member should know his/her responsibilities
  • Every member should do all types of task
  • Every member should know the other members of the team
  • Every member should work towards the common goal 

I have seen many team Leaders trying to do all the tasks themselves.
Please understand that you can’t do everything yourself.  

Take charge.

Lead . Don’t drive. 

Do not be a dictator.

The main responsibilities of the team leader :

·         Trains team in group problem-solving techniques
·         Infuse team with a sense of their own identity
·         Helps team choose their own targets and goals
·         Monitors and assess peer performance appraisals
·         Monito and assess the peer discipline process
·         Help the teams expand their responsibilities
·         Foster innovation in teams
·         Monitor team competition to prevent overzealous behaviours
·         Refocus teams when necessary on team goals

A few Do’s :

·         Share information
·         Build on ideas or proposals
·         Acknowledge ideas
·         Respect and acknowledge emotions, be patient
·         Deal with negative in a firm but friendly manner
·         Break down conflicts, confirm agreements, clarify areas of disagreement, aim for consensus, if not total agreement, in the team Improve the way your team members interact
·         Improve their ability to solve problems
·         Improve morale
·         Improve support and trust levels
·         Develop healthy inter-group relations
·         Reduce unhealthy conflict
·         Reduce stress in your workplace

 A few Don’ts :

·         Delay in taking needed action
·         Work too hard at being liked
·         Insensitive to others, abrasive, intimidating, bullying style, cool, aloof and/or arrogant
·         Betrayal of trust
·         Over managing or under managing
·         Unable to adapt to people who have different styles
·         Behaving inconsistently 

Team Leaders, Hope this Helps !!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

8 best ways to handle Difficult Situations

We all have learnt in our childhood about "Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you".  But in my years of experience in the corporate world, this does not hold too much of ground. Specially in highly political organizations, when people say something to you but is retold in a very different light to other people. 

So what do we do in such situations ? Do we fight back ? Hold a grudge ? Quit ? Let me tell you this, none of the above works. the harm done is always on you and no one else. 

I have burrnt my fingers several times and I can tell you this. The best way to tackle such situations is to have some responses ready for such situations so that the offender thinks twice next time . 

So, here goes ....

  • When your efforts are undermined : This is a very common situation and can be very upsetting. Instead of frontal attack or sulking, the best way is to state firmly what your contribution has been and say "Fortunately, I’m not easily offended, especially by one-off situations like this ”. 

  • When someone sparks a disagreement or says something offensive: In such situations, give a chance to the other person by saying "Did you mean what I think I heard ?"  An intelligent person will alter his/her course. 

  • When you are stuck in an argument with someone with whom you have had positive interactions before : Well, sometimes this does happen. And before things become more unpleasant, you can intervene by saying "We have a good track record working together. No reason to change that now.”

  • When you think you have reached a dead end :  You can restart the conversation by saying "I am committed to make this work for both of us" or Can we take a timeout? Perhaps we could discuss some ground rules for this negotiation?

  • When improper words are spoken : Offensive words really puts me off. And I am sure same goes for most of the people. In such situations, we should reframe the words in such a way so that the offender realizes his action For example, if he says "I really don't want to fight with you ! You just cannot comprehend what I am saying. Leave it !" You can say that “This is a debate, certainly not a fight. And you’re a good debater, as I recall."

  • When the conversation becomes too loud and offensive : Sometimes it is a good way to take the offense on yourself and say  “I’m getting loud and aggressive. I’m sorry. I don’t want this to be a competition." or “I don’t like where this is going. I’m guessing you don’t either. Can we try a different track?”

  • When someone accuses you of being too aggressive : If you feel that you are on the wrong, then you can say the lines mentioned in the above point. But if you feel that it is a way to put you down or shut you up, you can say "I am not loud but I am passionate about this " or " When something is as important as this, I am very determined to put up my point". And I am sure there will be silence there after .

  • When things are moved very fast : This induces panic and threat.  Slow it down by saying "Can we go a bit slow please ? Can I pause for a moment and point out what we both agree on? " or "Lets take a break and come back with a cool mind"

Hope this helps !