Author Archive Mani Prithiviraj

ByMani Prithiviraj

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 In the previous article, we reviewed Covey’s 7 Habits of Effective people. We understood  how alignment of actions with natural principles, balance of production and production capacity are important. In this post, we will look at the first habit which is “Be Proactive”. This is one of the habits associated with the self.

            Covey writes that a unique human endowment is “Self Awareness”. This is something that other life forms in the world do not possess. Some examples of Self Awareness are: self evaluation, learning from our experiences and learning from experiences of others. We have the ability not only to be trained, but also choose a training that suits us or even create a training.

            The term ‘proactivity’ is used a lot by modern organizations as a buzz word. While it refers mainly to taking the initiative, Covey explains that it goes well beyond that. According to him, proactivity also means that we are responsible for our lives and that our behavior is a function of our decisions and not conditions. We do not blame circumstances or others for problems that we face.

            I work in the area of customer support and one of the areas we focus on is proactive support. What is it that is different in proactive support? A few differentiators are:

  • In addition to resolving issues customers come to us for, we reach out to customers to see how they are doing and see if they need any help via phone, emails or visits.
  • Whenever a new release of a software is out, we explain new features that can be beneficial to the customers (rather than wait for the customers to ask us).
  • We offer to review existing processes to see if they can be improved to enhance productivity.

We see that the proactive support model give us a much higher probability of improving customer satisfaction, increasing their success and  encourage our customers to give us more business. It also improves the quality of our products, since we use feedback from the field and pass it on to the developers who work on enhancing the product.

We are all subject to Stimuli from the outside. Covey says that between Stimuli and Response, we have the ability to choose. A proactive person thinks and chooses an appropriate response to the stimulus he or she receives.  For example, one of our customers might come to us with a very harsh criticism. Now while the criticism might lack professionalism, the basis for the criticism may be justified. A proactive approach to the situation is to carefully analyze the problem in hand and focus on getting a solution for the problem.

During India’s Independence Struggle, Mahatma Gandhi remarked that “They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them”. The reason our feelings get hurt is not because of what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us.

As human beings we have several concerns in life. Concerns can be grouped into two areas as described by Covey. The inner circle in the figure below refers to things that are under our control. The outer circle describes things that are not directly within our control (e.g. the Weather, global economy)

 

Proactive people are focused mainly on the circle of influence. This approach helps in slowly expanding our circle of influence. On the other hand reactive people are more focused on the circle of concern.

Some of Covey’s suggestions for expanding our circle of influence are:

  • Being a better listener
  • Being a better spouse or family member
  • Being a better student and employee
  • Being a better manager.
  • Being a better teacher.

It is not that we completely ignore the circle of concern. We still need to think about it, but not let it be the major part of focus. We always have the choice of choosing an action. However, the outcome of our action is always aligned with natural principles. For example, we may choose not to wear our seat belt while travelling. However, if the vehicle comes to a sudden and  un-expected stop, we may get thrown, since that is a natural consequence the laws of physics.

According to Covey, the heart of the circle of influence is our ability to make and keep commitments and promises.  The commitments we make to ourselves and others and our ability to keep them is the clearest manifestation of our proactivity.

Hope you enjoyed this post. In the next post, we will look at the 2nd habit which is “Begin with the End in mind”.

Reference: 25th Anniversary Edition “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

This is the fourth post for #MyFriendAlexa by @Blogchatter. I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa and #Blogchatter.

ByMani Prithiviraj

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The 7 habits of highly effective people is a compilation by Stephen Covey of age old natural principles. Examples of natural principles are fairness, integrity, dignity, service, patience, quality and excellence.  According to Covey, anyone who consciously aligns their goals (personal or professional)  to these natural principles is bound to be very successful in life (Mahatma Gandhi is an excellent example of a successful person since he was aligned with natural principles) 

If a farmer wants a good yield at the end of the year, he needs to take appropriate steps throughout the year (e.g. Prepare the land, plant the seed, irrigate the plants, remove the weeds and finally harvest) If a farmer skips any of the steps or tries to compress the process, he is not likely to be successful in getting a good harvest. Similarly, Covey says that in life one has to align goals (personal and professional) to be in line with natural principles to be successful.

Covey defines a ‘Habit’ as an intersection of knowledge, skill and desire. Knowledge refers to theory or the “what to”. Skill refers to the “How to” and Desire refers to “Want to”. In order to make something a habit, we need to have the knowledge, know how to execute and also have the desire to execute.

The 7 Habits are:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek first to Understand then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

       The first three habits are focused on the self (inside) and the next three are focused on the outside (inter-personal relations). The last habit is the habit of rejuvenation or constant learning.

         Why are these habits of effectiveness? They are habits of effectiveness since they are all based on the natural principal of balancing production and the capability of production. Let us look at an organization with employees. Employees are capable of producing work which is beneficial to the organization. However employees also need to be cared for and nurtured,  in order to be able to produce work. If they over-worked and over-loaded by the management, then they lose the ability to produce results for the organization. A delicate balance between production and production capability is required according to Covey (similar to Aesop’s Fable story of the goose that laid the golden eggs).

          I was first introduced to Covey by my then reporting Manager Nathan Mac Donald in the year 2012. I can say for sure that ever since I started reading Covey’s book and making an attempt to follow them, I have seen small incremental improvements. My wish is that I had started when I was in school and college. However, I do believe that it is not late for anyone to start following the 7 habits of highly effective people. In my following posts, I will spend time discussing each of the seven habits.

Reference: 25th Anniversary Edition “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

This is the second post for #MyFriendAlexa. I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa and #Blogchatter.

 

ByMani Prithiviraj

Tesla

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Tesla’s Role in Evolution of Electric Cars

Modern day private and public transportation are primarily based on non-renewable energy resources.  These traditional forms of transportation contribute towards global warming since the one of the products of combustion using non-renewable fuels (e.g. Petrol, Diesel, Kerosene, Natural Gas) is Carbon-di-Oxide. Carbon-di-Oxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to global warming. In addition, the exhaust from vehicles also contains pollutants like unburnt hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and soot.

Electric cars work on the principal of converting the chemical energy stored in batteries to mechanical energy using an electric motor. The mechanical energy is then transferred to the wheels of the car to propel it. The main systems in an electric car are the battery, inverter, motor, transmission, cooling system for the battery, cabin comfort and electronics. The first electric car actually dates back to 1832 when Scottish Inventor Robert Anderson invented a crude Electric Carriage. However, it is only in recent times has a commercially viable Electric Car made it to the market.

 

 

Advantages of Electric Car over Internal Combustion (IC) Engines

  • Zero emissions (other than the generation of electricity used for charging batteries)
  • Very few moving parts (compared to an IC Engine)
  • Fewer systems leading to larger availability of space (e.g. The entire engine compartment area that is needed for an IC engine can be used as storage space)
  • 2-3 times higher efficiency compared to an IC Engine
  • Low Center of Gravity located roughly mid-way along the length of the car providing very stable handling characteristics.

Key Challenges / Disadvantages of Electric Cars over IC Engines

  • Driving range with a full charge is typically shorter than traditional IC engine powered cars.
  • Time to re-charge the battery pack is much longer compared to filling petrol/ diesel in a traditional car.
  • Except perhaps the US, Europe and a few countries in the developed world, the infrastructure available for charging electric cars is very minimal.

One of the biggest contributors in recent times towards commercialization of the Electric Car is Tesla, which is an auto-manufacturer based out of California (Yes! California and not Detroit). Tesla was originally founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpening in 2003. Eberhard was a smart engineer who wanted to reduce America’s dependence on oil. He built a technical model of an electric car using a spreadsheet.  Tarpening focused on creating a financial model that would be required for Tesla. Prior to Tesla the previously founded car company in the US was Chrysler in 1925. The company founded by Eberherd and Tarpening was named Tesla as homage to inventor and electric motor pioneer Nikola Tesla. The company was set up with the objective of ending America’s dependence on oil. Elon Musk shared the vision of Eberhard and Tarpening in reducing America’s dependence on oil and agreed to contribute about $6.5 Million towards building of the first prototype (or mule) of the electric car that would be named the Roadster. This was the time when Musk became the CEO of Tesla.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa and then moved to Canada and later to the US. He was an avid reader, who could understand and digest huge volumes of information. As a youngster, he had read and remembered all facts in Encyclopedia Britannica.  He got his dual degree from University of Pennsylvania (Economics and Physics). From his college days, Musk had a fascination for designing Electric Vehicles without compromising performance seen in traditional IC powered vehicles.

With Engineers like Straubel (who worked on using Lithium Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles), Gene Berdichevsky (who was a member of the Stanford Solar Powered Car team) and David Lyon (a clever Mechanical Engineer), Elon Musk assembled an enterprising team that built the first prototype of the Roadster. This team figured how to get the Motors, Batteries, Power Electronics, Transmission and Electronic controls all to work together. The team also worked on various design aspects including, ensuring sufficient cooling of the battery pack, safety of the battery pack, crash protection of the vehicle to name a few. The Roadster could accelerate from 0 to 60mph in about 4 seconds and it had numerous revolutionary features (e.g. door handles that automatically popped out when the driver approached the vehicle, a 17- inch Infotainment system for controls and navigation)

To keep costs under control, Tesla decided to have different parts of the vehicle manufactured in different locations around the globe and assembled. (e.g. Batteries were manufactured in Thailand, Body Panels in France). Between 2008 and 2012, Tesla sold about 2500 Roadsters.

May key global Automotive companies (BMW, Honda, GM, Daimler to name a few)  have taken note of  Tesla’s success and have started designing Electric Cars.  In India, we have started seeing a few Electric Vehicles on the road, with Mahindra and Mahindra being a key player in the 4 Wheeler segment (e.g e2O, E-Verito). Companies like Ather Energy are producing Electric Scooters (Model 350 and 450). In addition companies like Bajaj and TVS are investing in bringing Electric Scooters to market.

The share of electric vehicles in the world market is expected to grow steadily over the next 10-15 years. This will help the world move away from dependence on oil and in reduction of greenhouse gases.

References:

  1. Elon Musk, “How the Billionaire CEO of SPACEX and TESLA is shaping our Future”, By Ashlee Vance

 

ByMani Prithiviraj

Future Trends in Automobiles

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 Automobiles have evolved rapidly in the last 30-40 years. This article reviews future trends of Automobiles. As we survey the current landscape of the automotive industry, let us have a look at the future trends in automobiles.

  • Global push for reduction in emissions.
  • Autonomous Driving
  • Changing trends in ownership and move towards Transportation as a Service also known as Mobility as a Service.

We will discuss them one by one.

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ByMani Prithiviraj

Role of Computer Simulations in Design

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Introduction – reasons for good design:

When we buy a new car, we may have a number of expectations. e.g. We would like the car to be fuel efficient, comfortable in the cabin, be able to ride well in all kinds of roads, provide us a safe ride. When an airline buys an aircraft, they have expectations. e.g. Trouble free operation with minimal down time, integrity of the structure of the airplane, comfort of passengers in the cabin, reliable operation of the engine (from taxi, take off, ascent, cruise, descent and landing). When the government has a power plant commissioned, they would like to ensure that the plant delivers the required power, has the infrastructure to meet environmental emission standards and has good efficiency (conversion of energy into electricity). When an appliance manufacturer designs a washing machine, they would like to ensure that the system ensures good mixing of the water and detergent, proper agitation to remove dirt from the clothes and good ability to remove water from the clothes during the spin cycle.

All these examples show that a good design is needed for efficient functioning of the appliance/airplane/power plant etc

Methods of good design:

There are two principal methods for ensuring a good design:

a) Testing of Prototypes and the Final Product
b) Performing virtual simulations using a computer.

a. Testing:

The traditional method of design predominantly involved testing. Testing was considered to be the only fool proof method of ensuring a good design. However testing is expensive, time consuming, sometimes not possible in hazardous environments, and has difficulty to replicate all real-world operating scenarios.

b. Virtual simulations

Computer Simulations (also known as Virtual Simulations or Numerical Simulations) provide an attractive alternative. Instead of performing a physical test in a lab, one can perform a virtual test on a computer. The virtual test of course needs to be validated against physical tests (or experiments) to build confidence in the computer simulation. The cost involved for performing Virtual Simulations (typically computer hardware, software license and a trained engineer) is a lot cheaper than the cost involved for performing a physical test.
With the ever increasing power of computing, virtual simulations have become a cheaper and time efficient alternative to physical testing.

Now, there are two classes of problems. A) Problems that have an analytical solution b) Problems that do not have an analytical solution. The second class of problems involve modelling assumptions, and the results need to be interpreted carefully, keeping in mind the modelling assumptions. For both class of problems mentioned above, companies have been making a conscious shift from Physical Testing towards Virtual Simulations over the last 15 years.

Companies and design:

Most companies rely heavily on computer simulations at a very early stage of the design cycle to select a group of good designs. During the final stages of design, they test the good designs predicted by simulations. On successful confirmation of the designs, the product is released to the market. This approach enables companies to keep costs reasonable and also shorten the design cycle resulting in valuable time savings. In an evolving, demanding and competitive market environment, Virtual Simulations play a very important role.

Types of simulations:

Simulations themselves could either be 1D or 3D. 1D simulations are faster to run and enable system level simulations (e.g. Entire Powertrain of a Vehicle). 3D simulations take longer to run, but can provide three dimensional information about the system being analyzed (e.g. The temperature and pressure at every location within an Internal combustion engine). Companies typically use a combination of 1D and 3D simulation tools during the product design phase.

Both domestic and multi-national automotive manufactures have traditionally used Wind Tunnels for drag reduction of their vehicles. Reducing drag improves the fuel economy of the car. The manufacturers now use computer simulations to simulate both wind tunnel as well as on-road driving conditions. A computer simulation can provide the manufacturer detailed pressure, temperature and flow distribution around the car (to the tune of several million locations). It would be prohibitively expensive to get the same information from a wind tunnel test (since pressure and temperature transducers and data collection systems are expensive). The computed data can be visualized on a computer.

Conclusion:

As the expectations from the market keep rising every year, Virtual Simulations are now playing a very important role to help companies to come up with designs meeting customer requirements.

ByMani Prithiviraj

Conflict Resolution at the Workplace

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Advances in Technology and Market Pressures have led to increasing expectations on growth and performance in our workplace. Expectations can rarely be met purely based on individual efforts. Successful accomplishment of organizational goals requires collaboration and team work. Goals have to be accomplished with a diverse workforce (based on age, culture, work-styles). This gives rise to interesting challenges. Conflicts at the workplace can significantly impact achievement of goals. In this article I am going to write about common causes for conflict at the work place and methods that can be used for prevention and resolution of conflicts.

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