Categories: Organizational Development

02 Sep 2016

The secret behind routines

The secret behind routines

Years ago I lacked routines. In fact, I viewed people who had disciplined habits with disdain because I felt that such routines were a hinderance to the creative process. Wouldn’t daily patterns lock me up? I was wrong.

Nature itself works in patterns: days and nights, summers and winters, flowers and butterflies, mountains and rains and so on. These patterns don’t tire themselves out – in fact, they sustain all of earth through their repeatability. It’s these very patterns that allow creativity to blossom around us in countless ways.

Examine your life or business. Every area that’s lacking has an associated routine that’s missing.

If your health is held together by pills, you have a missing routine in exercise and food habits. If you’re bored with your job, you don’t have a routine to generate ideas or help others around you proactively. If you’re emotionally messed up through anger or angst, you don’t have a spiritual routine whether that’s through prayer or meditation or simply being thankful everyday for what you already have.

Whenever there are conflicts within teams, complaints from clients or slip-ups in projects, look under the hood and examine the team’s routines. You will find missing huddles and reviews. You will find people working without knowing what’s expected of them. Unresolved bitterness bubbles on for days because people avoid each other. The lack of rhythm ultimately translates to problems that clients perceive in the form of broken technology or shaky operations.

Routines keep you and your team emotionally balanced and physically energized. Ignore them and you can be sure to be bothered at the wrong times.

When you’re deep into designing a new product, someone will bother you about taxes. In between a marketing promotion, you will be dragged into an unexpected outburst by someone on the team. If you’re coughing and sneezing with a headache, you can forget about handling creative challenges – you just want to feel better. With unbalanced finances, you would be trigger-shy to approve even a modest training budget. You get the picture.

My routines started with myself and then moved to my work.

A few years ago when I was in every kind of issue from health to finances to finding emotional balance, I wrote an email to myself to stop worrying about what I didn’t want and instead focus on what I wanted. I wrote a series of routines that could potentially help me everyday. I wrote about things that I might want to do at least once a year such as going outdoors for a few days. I wrote about things that I always wanted to learn – even random things such as sculpture. At that time, it seemed impossible for any of that to happen.

Looking back I realize that every transformation started with a simple daily routine. I started exercising and meditating for just a few minutes. It helped. Then I stopped eating junk food. It helped. When I was able to fix a day, it became easier to fix a week and eventually a month. I added disciplines like not-complaining and removed patterns like having a drink after a stressful day. The good routines added up and made me feel good about myself. I also didn’t have to make repeated decisions about what I knew I had to do regularly. Then I brought those disciplines to work.

In my company we were trying to bring predictability to our processes but without routines, I realized we would never be able to do that. We started with simple habits of huddling for 10 minutes everyday across all teams and then reviewing our collective progress for an hour every week. By bringing financial discipline every month, we began managing cashflows better. In the beginning, it seemed painful because it seemed like I was losing my freedom. But the good habits added up giving us the freedom to pursue projects during non-routine time – usually 80% of our work time. People stopped interrupting each other with ad-hoc meetings or requests. We became more methodical in our operations.

Routines bring much needed predictability to areas that don’t need to wobble, such as your finances or health. They are the pillars on which you can stand on and develop yourself and your organization. It’s only after sustained effort that routines reveal their secret – they create the space you need to get on with your life’s work.

Originally published on LinkedIn and Economic Times,  by Praveen Suthrum, President & Co-Founder, NextServices


25 Jan 2015

Lessons in creating joy at work

Lessons in creating joy at work


I’m back home after attending our organization’s annual celebration called Jalsa. During the event, iNexters (as our associates are known) explode in creativity – dancing, singing, acting, walking ramps, designing events and so on. We invite friends, families, children, business partners and importantly iNexter alumni (people who previously worked with NextServices). Jalsa results in heart-warming smiles, cheers and laughter from a large group of people – a seemingly impossible task in contemporary work life. The occasion is a vibrant, energetic gathering and over the years has taken a life of its own, forming a core part of our organizational culture.

Here’s what I learnt over the past years in helping build our organizational culture:

Being normal and human-like.

In popular press, there’s a lot of talk about work-life balance as though we ought to be two completely different people at work and at home. We end up treating friends and family differently from co-workers, even though we spend more time with the latter. At work, we behave differently with supervisors and subordinates. We feel disciplined and liberated for the wrong reasons. We sometimes treat clients, vendors and business partners as aliens.

All we have to do is try being ourselves and allow others to be themselves – normal and human-like. It simply means being open, transparent, even friendly – just as we would want others to be with us. As entrepreneurs/ managers/ supervisors, to create an environment that allows individuals to scale up to the best of their potential. At least, not curb it. This makes a joyous work experience.

Creativity happens in our most natural state.

Not just creativity but an inclination to be of help, to be friendly, to do good, to do the right thing – everything has a basis in us being in tune with our natural, free state of mind. When our minds are not free, we are not able to live our best. We worry, we fret, we backbite, we whine and depending on our maturity, we take our frustrations out on whomever we can. It’s the organizational culture that creates the right balance of freedom and discipline that makes a place of work worthy of spending our days. It’s our responsibility to help our co-workers evolve freely, in their natural state.

I often observe that events like the Jalsa allow people to express their creativity in ways that otherwise go undiscovered. Some turn out to be poets. Some are excellent script writers. Some excel in execution skills. Some have incredible sense of humor. Today, I was pleasantly thrilled to see one of our senior executives in a Dracula avatar – complete with hood and blood! Once encouraged, the creativity of an individual expresses itself in countless other forms.

Organizational rituals are important.

We not only have daily huddles, weekly, quarterly and annual meetings, but also celebrate festivals and events. We routinely conduct workshops in remote locations. We live the same values. We promote for the same reasons. We do the same things – sometimes differently. It sets a predictable organizational rhythm that everyone is trained to expect, gauge and contribute to. It’s the sum-total of these beliefs and behaviors that spread from one group of individuals to the next, sustaining the working principles of the organization. Job roles may change, people may change, the work itself may change but the underlying work ethic constantly evolves without ever disconnecting from core principles. Rituals make the culture – defining a consistent character that makes us who we are.

It’s the same energy that manifests in different forms.

While we know that energy is transformative from high school physics, we forget that fact by the time we go to work. I notice that the energy that is generated by receiving/ giving awards, by clapping, by laughing together, by dancing, by appreciating, by expressing/ receiving thanks, by simply having fun, transforms into various other forms of energy that does the organization a whole lot of good. It keeps the mind cleaner and focused on positive intentions. People treat each other more kindly – from co-workers to clients. Internally, it generates endorphins, neurotransmitters that relieve our stress and enhance pleasure. It creates memories that continue to create joy much later into the future.


I recently purchased a medical microscope to study cells. It’s fascinating to see how cells look up-close – for example, mucor (a fungi) looks spectacular with its ink-blue nodes and long cords that seem to dangle like exotic flower buds. Cells don’t just inherit traits, they are also actively shaped by their environment. Cells know how to organize themselves, divide and perform various functions, create innumerable backups, and pass on information as they die. Collectively, they make up organs such as lungs. I’ve seen and touched a normal lung and a smoker’s lung – one looks healthy and off-white, the other looks murky green/brown. What can I say – it’s as simple as that to recognize good from bad.

Life is no different as we expand out of the microscope. Business organizations are also no different. Culture is the unseen magic environmental ingredient that makes conditions suitable for cellular growth. It’s also what makes organizations do what they are meant to do – create and make a difference.

Originally published on LinkedIn,  by Praveen Suthrum, President & Co-Founder, NextServices. 

Image: NextServices Jalsa participants cheering at the end of the show