July 03, 2021

Spotlight: "Speed Matters" by Dr. Raman K. Attri

Meet Dr. Raman K. Attri - Performance Xcelerator, Executive & Author

Credit: Sasha Talks | Dr. Raman K. Attri

Author Overview

Dr Raman K Attri is a global authority on speed in personal and professional performance. A learning scientist and one among few experts researching and speaking on speed, he specializes in research-backed strategies to speed up professional performance by 200% and helping organizations to reduce employee time to proficiency by 50%. An organizational learning leader at $40bn technology corporation, he manages a Hall of the Fame training organization, named one among the top 10 in the world. A prolific author of 20 multi-genre books, he writes on accelerating human excellence. Passionate about learning, he holds two doctorates in the learning domain, earned over 100 international educational credentials, and is awarded some of the world's highest certifications. Undeterred from his disability and inability to walk since childhood, he continues to be an inspiring personality. He spreads his positivity by guiding leaders and professionals on the science and the art of speed in all walks of life. He loves to share his insights and motivate people. Credit: Amazon Profile; RamanKAttri.com

Credit: Speed Matters by Dr. Raman K Attri

Author Insights by Dr. Raman K Attri

Welcome Dr. Attri! You're hailed as an International Performance Scientist, Educator, Executive and Author who endorses human development through teaching individuals how to accelerate their life performance through emphasis of speed. What does speed mean to you? 
The speed I am talking about is not based on getting ahead first or finishing a project quickly. Instead, the meaning of speed, in my view, is to get to a point faster where people can deliver first-time-right outcomes consistently. The initial journey may be very slow to reach the point of doing things the first time. But once you get there, you don’t need a rework; you don’t need corrections; you don’t need to go back and spend additional time fixing it. Compared to others who might focus on the speed of executing the tasks, this individual would have a competitive advantage. At that point, the task or project execution speed comes automatically. However, reaching that point of consistent, reliable, and repeatable first-time-right performance takes a long time if we don’t take any deliberate efforts. My concept of speed is to aim for that point and enable teams, employees, leaders, and yourself to reach that point in a shorter time. 

How did acceleration of speed play a role in your life path?
At a personal level, I continue to believe that speed is essential. When you attain the speed of mastery in anything you do, you save a lot of time to do other things. My obsession or specialization for speed is rooted in the lack of the same in my early years. I am a permanently disabled polio survivor. I got infected with polio virus when I was merely six months old. So, from that point onward, I lost my ability to walk much before I reached the age to walk. 

After the first few years of crawling, I tried holding my leg up and dragging myself painfully. When I grew up a little, I had to wear calipers, a sort of steel-clad, heavy prosthetics to keep my legs in place. In my later years, I learned to walk with crutches, which is my current mode of walking. Whatever mode I used, I limped; I was slow and took baby steps like a primitive robot. I was too slow to catch up with my friends. A series of unpleasant experiences in early years forced me to think that if I could not walk, I will walk faster in something else. 

I thought if I can’t walk physically, I might use the power of my mind to stay ahead. That’s how I sought speed in learning and anything I wanted to master in my later years. My leverages were lack of mobility which gave me uninterrupted time and no social distractions. Using these leverages, I immersed myself in the world of learning. I read any book I could get my hands on. While learning ahead of my age, I tried every workable experiment to stretch the limit to learn faster. Those early life experimentations led me to master the science of speed as a global performance scientist. 

You just released a book “Speed Matters: Why Best in Class Business Leaders Prioritize Workforce Time to Proficiency Metrics."  The book is described as "distilled wisdom from an extensive research on 66 start-to-end project success stories spanning 28 industries, contributed by 85 best in class business leaders from 7 countries". What led you to write this book?
The book came into conception mainly because of the Covid-19 crisis. During that dire time, we saw how many organizations struggled to adapt to the radical changes enforced by Covid-19. But at the same time, for many others, it has accelerated the need to transform and fast track in the competitive business world. The key challenge I see is how leaders and organizations will prepare their employees for faster recovery. But there is a crucial gap in executive education. The executives, leaders, and managers have never been training in the science of speed. So, I thought this was the right time to give them important leadership thinking to effectively tackle contemporary issues. 

How would you sum up the premise of this book in ten words or less?
Speed of employee development matters a lot in keeping organizations competitive in the market. 

Organizations among a broad palette of industries are impacted by the pandemic. How is this book relevant to the present times where workforce utilization is being examined, supply chains are demanding attention and leadership is seeking sensible solutions to proceed into the unknown "new normal" landscape?
After the pandemic is over, several organizations will struggle to recover their lost market share, revenue, or customers. They need to master the art of speed. I realized that most organizations and leaders were not prepared to act at that speed. They have not taught their employees the ways to gain skills at a faster rate. I wrote this book specifically for top leaders, CEOs, and executives to educate them about how they can be speed-savvy for the times to come. 

The new normal is an accelerated world. In general, organizations need a new leadership thought process, which focuses on building a speed-enabling culture. That leadership thought process is what I covered in the book, hoping to make speed a priority for those who want to stay relevant in the times to come. In the book, I talk about the importance of prioritizing the time to proficiency metrics in their teams and how leaders can bring that language of speed into their organizations.

If leaders adopt the philosophy I mentioned in the book, they will be ready for the new normal at a much-accelerated rate. And they can stay ahead of the competition to serve the customers. 

​Why should the speed of employee development matter to a leader?
​As we have seen, during the pandemic, our employees struggled to learn new skills, even as simple as running zoom software. People were not prepared. Because they have been groomed to complete some tasks fast, not to learn the new skills faster to the level of proficiency.  In 2017, Deloitte, which is a major consulting firm, did a study with 10000 executives. They stated that the shelf life of any skill back then was about 12 months to 18 months. That figure is roughly down to 3 months or fewer during the pandemic. That means employees need to learn new skills every 3 months. But how long does it take to learn and master new skills? Well, my research showed it to be pretty long. For instance, a semiconductor or a communication equipment engineer reaches mastery in 2 to 3 years.  So we have a catch-22 situation. The shelf life is too short, but the time to mastery is too long. 

Let me share another piece of data here. The time to market was 3 years, about a decade ago. Now it is roughly 3 months for new products or services. Customers are becoming impatient to get new products in their hands sooner. So, while we say that every 3 months, your employees need to learn new skills to innovate, be relevant and competitive in the market. Organizations have lost substantial market share. They will be highly pressed to recover their position. And only those who will manage to stay ahead can build their employees' mastery well before the pandemic is over. That’s why the speed of employee skill development is the only way to stay ahead in the market. 
What do these 85 best in class business leaders have in common?
Yeah, in fact, one thing was characteristically common. The global leaders I interviewed said they had to fix the managers first as a pre-requisite to bringing a speed-enabling culture into their teams. In most job roles, managers can’t even define or quantify the proficiency they expect from employees. And they don’t even know how to measure speed. If we don’t measure speed, how do we know if we are going fast or slow?. That was trap number two. 

​In most organizations, managers are mostly hands-off because they got tons of work making slides and attending meetings. They don’t have the time to interact with their employees, which should be their number one priority. They leave their employees at the mercy of the training department, expecting trainers to be the magicians who would produce fully productive employees within a few weeks. That’s where employees don’t feel supported, and that slows them down further.  This was the one thing these visionary leaders wanted to fix. The moment they fixed this key pivotal point of an ecosystem, the remaining things were simple to solve. 

What are the top three industries that serve as ideal benchmarks for research and study to convey the benefits of why "speed matters" for developing proficiency metrics?
While my study included over 40 industries, for some industries, speed mattered the most. The foremost was the technology sectors such as semiconductor, telecommunication, smartphones, and other hi-tech technologies. In general, speed matters to organizations in this sector producing the next-generation products, which have become a lifeline for most businesses. For instance, network infrastructure or semiconductor chip manufacturing companies. 

​The speed matters the most in those industries is where the rate of skill obsolesces is higher. Notably, since the tasks are being replaced with more automation like in car manufacturing, workers need to gain skills at a higher rate nowadays. 
In some industries, we see the most significant turnaround. And we find they are constantly busy qualifying significant churn out of new people. For instance, retail and consumer industries. Though the skills in these sectors are not overly complex, it takes a toll on the organizations to maintain their services. 

Some professionals in business fear numbers because they undervalue the significance of how numbers convey the health of an organization. What is the best way to educate and train managers to embrace numerical benchmarks as their ally instead of their enemy?  
I am sure you have seen during Covid-19, everyone started overusing the term “accelerate.” Accelerate digital transformation, accelerate performance, accelerate learning, accelerate process improvement, accelerate everything, literally. But we can’t accelerate unless we measure our current speed quantifiably and cut the substantial time out of the journey from point A to Point B. It's very ironic that every single technology out there gives the time stamp. Still, we lack a good mechanism or instrumentation to measure speed. Few leaders have paid attention to this lack simply because their focus is on task execution. 
Managers need to learn to quantify speed numerically. We could leverage their current processes of measuring KPIs, which come as numbers. Lately, most business managers have learned to use dashboards, data analytics and have become comfortable with numbers. All they need to do now is to take one more step on how to measure speed using the same set of KPIs, how to baseline speed, and then put efforts to speed up. My book can be the starting place for them to build that perspective. 

What are some common misconceptions about speed or speed of employee development that exist within the leadership realm across the many industries in the market?
I would mention one. I have seen that there was over-reliance on training as a magic wand across the board. Leaders have relied on training so heavily that they leave their employees to the training departments, hoping they will produce fully proficient employees in just a few weeks. Training is the solution to increase the rate of readiness, according to them—that’s the misconception, and that’s the trap. But to be honest, training in most cases slows down the proficiency curve rather than speeding it up. This might come as counter-intuitive, but it is. Because in most organizations, they have simply copied the training from academic templates, too content focused topic-wise, or classroom style and more memory-focused. Several sales functional heads took part in my research. One financial service call center used to hire call agents to answer the questions of the customers and would help them buy the right product. So logically, they tried to make these agents remember everything about every single product. It resulted in 11 weeks of training—intensive, morning till evening, instructor-led, with lots of paper-and-pen type tests to check memories on product features. They were trying to stuff the training program with just-in-case content that has no relevance. And they hardly spent time on training them to interact with the customer. And after 11 weeks, they would need another 3 months to reach a stage where they know exactly where is the answer to a question and to become completely fluid in their performance. That’s the danger of a poorly designed training structure. It actually slows down the speed. 

For instance, during the pandemic, some of the repair businesses like semiconductor equipment, industrial machinery, and elevators used innovative technologies like augmented smart glasses for brand new technicians. They had no way to send them for initial training. So they used these smart glasses, sent them to actual jobs on day one. The smart glasses come with an augmented display where you can access procedures, documentation, and videos hands-free. And then, you can connect with the remote network coaches who can see what you see as a technician. So see, it is far better than training. It provides information, procedure, knowledge, coaching, learning, peer support, and instructions, all at one place. Who needs training if you create that kind of tech ecosystem? The result is a roughly 50% reduction in time to proficiency. 
My guidance to leaders is that they don’t rely on training to build the proficiency of their employees. Training does only one thing, it delivers knowledge, skills and gives you initial readiness. Training does not build the realistic performance that is required to show proficiency. If training is not enabling your employees with realistic performance and not adding to speed up time to proficiency, why do it? Leaders are better positioned to replace it with performance support technologies, knowledge repositories, on-demand mobile learning, and things like that. When people fetch the information at the point of need, when they pull and learn the something they need when they need, guess what, their learning is much faster, and they produce outcomes much faster. 

Are there any instances when you discourage the focus of 'speed' in your training and speaking sessions?
​In general, I discourage pushing for faster completion of work, tasks or projects. The majority of the leaders see speed as the only way to get ahead first. So what do they do? They press hard for deliverables, set aggressive timelines, insist on faster task or project execution. It does give the impression of moving fast, there can be some immediate wins, but it does not lead to a long-term competitive advantage. Because employees don’t have enough time to learn and master. Their learning is half-cooked. 

In a study by Deloitte, the worldwide executives said that speed and agility were far more important than efficiency. But most organizations still don’t learn. They continue to focus on efficiency rather than speed. They keep going for the mad rush to accomplish things quickly. That was okay for industry 3.0. 

But in Industry 4.0, efficiency is the primary goal of automation and technologies like Artificial Intelligence. If machines can do it faster than humans more efficiently, why keep chasing the wrong speed? Also, we have seen that this kind of mad rush is creating burnout. People get stretched, and as a result, they leave. Or they lose motivation pretty soon. The side effect is that employees do not go home with a sense of achievement. Rather, they go home with a sense of pressure and urgency. It is not sustainable for any business. 
Let’s rather focus on building those skills of employees at a faster rate—the things which only humans can do. I encourage them to focus on making employee-centric culture where everything in the organization is geared toward making employees proficient at a faster rate so that they deliver their performance seamlessly, with no pressure. 

Are there any topics you had intended to include in the book, but due to bandwidth you were unable to accommodate at this time?
The topic of “Speed matters” is a massive subject in itself, actually. I started with the intention to make it as a comprehensive book specifying practices and strategies to shorten time to proficiency of employees. But as I progressed, I realized that executives need education and awareness firstly, as the pandemic deepened. Before any executive applies strategies, they need the groundwork and build a culture, a language of speed. So then, I limited the book to 300 pages, which is more than enough to give them an all-rounded understanding of what they are missing and why it is crucial. Also, it was important to get the book out during the pandemic, as the know-how discussed in the book will be required immediately after the pandemic is over. I am planning to specify strategies and practice in my next book titled “GET THERE FASTER.”

You've penned at least 20 multi-genre books that demonstrate your interests in the fields of business, arts, science, leadership, social culture, art and poetry. Is there any particular genre that's easier for you to write versus the other? 
I believe that we humans have multiple aspects of personality. We are multidimensional individuals. We are not just employees, managers, or business people. That’s a small part of our personality. In the more significant part of life, we play with a son, daughter, friend, companion, spouse, parents, and sometimes community members. So, the theme of our book may come out from any dimension, aspect, experience, or phase of our life. With that view, it has been super easy for me to write books in multiple genres because, in each genre, I express my own personality and experience. So far, it has been pretty easy for me to write research-based books or the ones related to the learning domain. That has been a significant part of my professional career. However, I have not written books on my personal encounters with my disability, self-improvement, and other things. I think those can wait.
Which topics require you to become engulfed in waves of research before you promote the ideology in the form of a book?
Professional topics on leadership, training, and learning typically require a lot of research. This is also because I personally see that most of the literature in these disciplines is not always research-based. People resort to reading half-cooked information, sometimes misrepresented quotes, and more so the beautifully designed graphics from social media to adopt the strategies which are not proven in research. So as a researcher, it becomes even more vital for us to research and present a more rational picture. But luckily, I have conducted a lot of research already during my personal experimentations and while doing my doctoral program. So, I have foundational research available already. It takes time to convert into a practice-based book that practitioners and leaders could find easy to read. 

What advice do you have for writers who initiate the book writing process yet they fail to complete their books because the desire starts to wane with time?
​There is a bit of a misconception that authors have to spend continuous hours in ‘author mode’ to get writing done. On the contrary, I found that those longer spells are the main reason they would leave their projects incomplete.  It is hard to focus and concentrate for a longer time, especially now, given all the noise and distractions going around us. Therefore, I prefer to work in sprints. In sprints philosophy, you sit down to accomplish a small but specific piece of writing at a time. Ideally, you spend little time on it, not a long haul of hours. The idea of a sprint is not to write a massive volume of words in one sitting. You decide the timing for each sprint, depending upon the nature of your project. For example, you might limit it to 30 minutes a day if writing is a side hustle for you. You might have to spread the 30 minutes sprints throughout the day if writing is your profession and source of income. Then the following day, you come back and start with the next sprint for the same project (or a different project, altogether). 

​Going back to a different project altogether might sound counter-intuitive. But, if you look closely at any product development company, let’s say a cell phone company, you will find that they do not work on one model at a given point in time. Instead, there is a concurrent development taking place on various models. In the same way, as an author, if you could be working on several manuscripts - some may be just skeletons while some might be at the advanced stages. So, you could come back to work in different manuscripts but in a sprint fashion. That allows you to have flexible switching among various projects. The probability of finishing all the projects is much higher in this mode.

While many things may seem incomplete on my plate at a given time, there comes a time when most of them will be progressing toward completion. The magic happens when I complete projects, one after another. Admittedly, before that happens, there are periods when others would see me producing nothing. But when most threads come close to completion, I usually surprise my peers with a blast of series of outcomes. However, I must warn that not everyone is cut out for such a switching mechanism in their mind.

Credit: Dr. Raman K Attri

As a multi-faceted writer, you are generous in sharing your emotions through writings such as "If Forever Exists" which is a book hosting a collection of 89 poems that explore the complexity of life through successes and failures of relationships. What’s the driver behind this book? How did you come about to write this book?
​There are always some soulful moments, events, and emotions we encounter in our life which we wish could stay with us forever. That’s why the title ‘If Forever Exists.’ I thought the only way to make such moments immortal is to put them on paper. As we grow up, we build several relationships of varied nature from friendship, family to love. As we pass through the ups and downs of these relationships, our relationships go through a series of phases of the emotional journey. At each phase, we are bound to feel, process, and express complex emotions differently. 

I had a fair share of those phases, which I penned down as 87 soulful poems in this book, recounting and reflecting on my experiences at various stages of personal relationships. I tried to capture a range of emotions any adolescent, young adult or grown-up feels during those phases, such as love & friendship; attraction & infatuations; belongingness & loneliness; togetherness & separation; rejections & acceptances; frustrations & angers; obsessions & passion; successes & failures; confusions and reflections; heart & mind and other powerful emotions. These all are natural human responses. 

What is the one message you have for the readers who would like to purchase “If Forever Exists”?
My message to readers would be “Live and relive your memorable moments and emotions that defined who you were back then. Take pride in expressing your real inner-self. Stay true to your inner-self, even if it is overly sensitive, and bring it out. We have made our life too dry by coming across professionals or dignified leaders. Let the sensitive human side of you complement your dominating professional personality. Don’t worry if you or others don’t see it congruent with what you are doing today.”

Do you believe a poet exists in every living being?
​Yes, I pretty much do. As I said before, human experiences are multidimensional. We have the ability to feel, process and express. Admittedly, not everyone can be good with words and weave a poem, but then again, expressions do not need to adhere to any set rules. I have seen people who just write in free-flow of heart-felt words as poems. As long as you can express the impression vividly and accurately about the way you feel, not necessarily the way it happens, you can ignite the poet inside you. 
Is there any emotion that you struggle with communicating as a human being? 
​I think it is contextual. Humans have been given versatile capabilities and the potential to feel and express any kind of emotion. Perhaps, we are the only species who can do so. The ability to communicate is also personal, depending upon how we have been groomed and educated. There is no one answer to this question. But undeniably, the success of our relationship depends upon how well we can communicate emotions at the time of need. If we don’t, there is a likelihood that you would vent it out as a poetry book someday, but it might be too late by then. 

Personally, I find it difficult to communicate emotions toward parents. No matter how much you wish to give more justice to it, you will feel that it lacks something. The cultural aspect is important too. Certain cultures like mine are indoctrinated not to speak up to parents and, more often, suppress the emotions. Occasionally, the most legitimate emotions that must be expressed could get suppressed too. 

Credit: Faces from Memory Lane

"Faces from Memory Lane: A memoir to Feminine Charm Through Portraits" introduces your artistic abilities to audiences. These 85 portraits range from hand drawn portraits to sketches honoring the beauty and essence of women you've met in your path. What made you write this book?
This book came out because of my artistic appeal. Faces, in particular, always appealed to me because they are windows to the heart. We see, talk, love, and of course, remember people by their faces. But more so, female faces appealed to my artistic sense profoundly. In my life, I happened to meet some remarkable female faces down the memory lane. Some of the outstanding females that left an impression on me included my nieces, cousins, friends, teachers, and crushes. Some faces left profound impressions on me. I wanted to capture that divine appeal, captivating beauty, mesmerizing charm, and a multitude of expressions the way I saw fit. So, I developed this large-format coffee-table book to interweave the visual stories I conveyed through portraits, short story narratives, and a poem complementing each portrait. 

That’s how the book came about, I guess. Some portraits, sketches, and paintings included in this book date back as early as 30 years ago, those which I had drawn back in school or college days but somehow miraculously preserved in some form. If you ask, this is probably the most memorable piece of authorship I have created, which I am genuinely proud of. I did not write this book to sell, but more as a gift to those who were featured in the book. It is my way to offer regards to some of the greatest female personalities whom I met throughout my life.
What is the one message you have for the readers who would like to purchase “Faces in Memory Lane”?
My one message would be that every one of you can’t be an artist, but perhaps, you can recognize and appreciate the stories each face brings in your life. There comes a time when it is hard to recall the face of your closest friend from childhood. Do something today to preserve the memories before those fade away.
In your opinion, what is one superpower that women host that no man can intellectually or materialistically replicate?
​The poet inside me sees the female faces as vivid images. Females have compelling and unparalleled charm. Their charm is capable of bringing unimaginable happiness, transformations, dreams, desires, feelings, and hopes in the lives of the people who surround them. I believe that no man can intellectually or materialistically replace it. Each female in our life brings a story of her own and leaves us with a unique memoir, no matter the relationship. I have been fascinated by charm, smiles, expressions, and emotions on female faces. The female face seemed both knowable and ineffable. That was the primary driver as well as the key message I wanted to convey in this book. 
How do you define beauty in your life?
The true beauty for me is simplicity that can give you a serene and settled feeling. 

Dr. Attri, how do you define success? How do you define failure?
Success is personal, contextual, and situational. For me, success is a personal feeling of getting a sense of achievement, a sense of feeling to have surpassed yesterday’s standards. When I don’t reach that standard or surpass yesterday’s standard, that becomes my rolling definition of failure. So, depending upon where we are on the path to excellence, the definition of failure would change for me. It’s certainly not binary. Back then, when I graduated from my college, starting on a $50 trainer’s job was a success for me. Success is something we define differently for our needs, wants, desires, and dreams. We need to be very sure if we are talking about the success of our needs or the success of our dreams. Different criteria work for different domains of our life. 

What areas of your professional development required attention when you embarked upon your career path? Did you rely upon any mentors and trainers?
Since childhood, I have mostly been a self-learner. I had been learning faster and ahead of others. One reason for that was no access to mentors or coaches. A larger part of my professional development has happened without a coach or mentor. I probably could have over-accelerated further had I had the right mentors and coaches at the right moment. In my most recent corporate career, my manager has been quite instrumental in giving me tips to perfect my executive communication skills. When I embarked on a professional speaking journey formally, I realized I needed proper coaches if I am to progress and make a name in this domain. That’s where I have sought help from some of the greatest minds in the speaking industry. I have got coaching from the legend himself, Mr. Les Brown, the world’s number one motivational speaker. I have been coached by Kane Minkus, arguably one of the best in professional speaking. I have also received coaches from Sam Cawthorn’s team as well. 

Credit: Dr. Raman K Attri, Speaking

When you're not writing, training, speaking or working in any fashion, how do you mentally escape the demands of everyday life?
Prior to the pandemic, travel was a thing that was a channel to escape everyday life. But last year was taxing because of the pandemic. So, what I used to do earlier did not hold patterns. However, I am rekindling now, back to music via Spotify. I had lost touch with music for a long while. I listen to mystic music like Enigma-fame, which takes me out of bounds from the current happenings. 

Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
I run a research forum “XpertX” which has a component of serving people by educating them with tips and tricks of accelerating their excellence. I am developing it as a learning portal for anyone to come and learn the art and science of learning, get some techniques on how to learn better and faster, where they can get some tested methods to be better performers in their workplace or professions and receive some better self-clarity to speed up their path to excellence in whatever they strive to do. It is the movement. And I would like the audience to join this movement. If you are keen to know the art and science of speeding up your path to excellence, I will encourage the audience to join XpertX forum at http://ramankattri.com while it is in nascent phases and the membership is free. 

If you think that your leadership team and organizations need to bring a speed-enabling culture but don’t know where to start, you could contact me to deliver a keynote to educate your executives. You can get started by reading the book “SPEED MATTERS” on this link here.

I would encourage the audience to join me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube by searching my handle @DrRamanKAttri. 

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Amazon Author: Dr. Raman K Attri

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