Challenge The Assumptions That Hold You Back
Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Instead, challenge the assumptions that hold you back.
Whenever I meet someone for the first time and share that I am a TOC consultant, the typical response is, “Oh, so you are an operations consultant!” While it is true that TOC has several success stories in manufacturing/operations, however, its application is not restricted to operations alone. Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a systems philosophy developed by late Eli Goldratt, author of THE GOAL. He compared an organization to a chain, just as the strength of the chain is determined by its weakest link, the output of an organization is determined by its constraint.
How Did It Start?
My first formal exposure to TOC Thinking Processes was ten years ago when I attended Goldratt’s Odyssey program in the Netherlands. It was a week-long program that led me to challenge my assumptions and beliefs about the way we think, the way we work and the decisions we make.
My informal exposure to TOC had begun long back, almost 20 years ago, through my father Ravi Gilani, who introduced TOC to Indian organizations in 1998. While I was inclined to work with him, I also wanted to gain some experience in the industry on my own. After completing my MBA, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry in diverse roles. Thereafter, I moved to management consulting as a part of Accenture’s corporate strategy practice. In my work as a strategy consultant, I found TOC tools helpful in problem-solving, communication and challenging the status quo.
In many of the organizations that I worked with, I observed that the root cause of all conflicts is erroneous assumptions.
When faced with a conflict, common reactions such as blame, finger pointing, regret or guilt can muddle our thinking.
If we can just find a way to articulate our pain, first to ourselves and then to others involved, it paves the way for a win-win solution. As I learnt more, I realized that more than tools, this was about changing mindsets.
Commencing My Journey
When I decided to start working with my father, he told me upfront that I will be like any of the other consultants working with him and shouldn’t expect any preferential treatment.
In the last few years, I have also taken charge of TOC training and leadership development programs and we have designed a number of industry-specific offerings. The programs are designed with inputs from globally renowned subject matter experts and tailored to the needs of the Indian industry. Our open programs have been attended by senior leaders from companies such as Tata Motors, ITC, Honeywell, Accenture, Aditya Birla Group, Eicher, Arvind Lifestyle, Wills Lifestyle, Dr Reddy’s, Tata AIG etc.
We have also conducted in-house workshops for some of the leading companies such as Airtel, Mahindra & Mahindra, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Flipkart, ABB, Global Green Company, to name a few. It has been an amazing journey to introduce TOC Thinking Processes in several organizations that had no prior exposure to the methodology.
The most gratifying part is when people share that this methodology has enabled them to look at their job in a completely different way.
Many of them share that attending the program has helped them connect the dots and see the big picture, enabling them to become more effective leaders.
I am a part of the Managing Committee at Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC). I believe industry forums such as these provide a great platform for networking, knowledge sharing and upskilling opportunities.
I’m also a firm believer that if Indian companies want to tap into the full potential of human capital available, there has to be a far greater emphasis on having more women in the workforce.
I am a part of Lean In Bangalore and enjoy interacting with this vibrant, enterprising group of women.
Ira Gilani after a workshop.
What makes me really happy about the work I do is the impact that it creates on clients. The impact is not only in terms of their improved financial performance, but also in terms of the harmony and alignment that TOC adoption brings to their organization. One of our past clients shared that after this program, the general attitude of the team is that “every problem is solvable”.
As I gain more knowledge and expertise working with Indian clients, I also try to develop this new knowledge in a way that it can be used across industries and geographies. In 2016, I made a presentation on “Cash Constraint” at Leesburg, Virginia, USA at TOCICO international conference. It was a proud moment for my family, to see me working successfully with my father and taking new concepts to a wider audience across Indian shores.
Juggling Many Roles
When Nirupama and I spoke about this story, I told her - I’m an entrepreneur, consultant, trainer, wife, mom, daughter.. juggling many roles, all at once. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Wearing many hats is never easy. It can tire you, burn you out, make you question your decisions and choices.
What keeps me going is a strong belief in the work that I do and the value it brings to our clients. There have been times that I’ve felt low, but one call from an old client has been enough to cheer me up and find a way to turn things around.
Here are some of the things that I’ve learned during my career:
Define Your Purpose: You have to know your authentic purpose, period. It doesn’t always have to be a unique purpose that you have identified for yourself. If you find a leader who has a purpose that you identify with, it is okay to choose that as your purpose and build on the existing work.
Don’t Let Self-Doubt Hold You Back: Once you have chosen an area, focus on it completely. If you have doubts about your capabilities or expertise, talk to an expert. Identify the skill gaps and get trained if required, but don’t let self-doubt hold you back from accepting greater responsibilities.
Take Out Time To Do What You Love: If there is something you love doing, don’t give it up. If you like reading or painting, just devote 30 minutes a day to it. Don’t let your career or marriage or motherhood define who you are.
Seek Out Mentors & Networking Opportunities: Too often, I find women saying networking is not their cup of tea. Take small steps, start interacting with a few more people in and outside your organization. As you start building meaningful relationships, you will also realize the power of networking and get more comfortable with it.
Ira Gilani (Director, Time n Cash) is a management consultant and a trainer in the area of Theory of Constraints (TOC). She has over 12 years of experience across different sectors. Ira is a TOCICO certified expert. She is a member of the Women’s Empowerment Committee at BCIC (Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce).
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