Just a very deep Power nap



We destroyed it. We were unjust to it. We overburdened it.  We almost committed a murder. We betrayed our origin. We did too much. Each one of us! But it was strong enough to heal itself, to use self-correcting mechanisms, and clever enough to stay safe.


Did we ever think what a great blessing it is? We were too busy satisfying our luxuries, our wants. We were too busy capturing the world, we were too busy being ignorant. We became too materialistic for our beloved land and thus, we forced it to press the pause button. But it is the mother after all, who cannot see her children suffer because of her, and so, it will emerge, more energetic, more resourceful. It just went on a break, too tired of us oblivious kids who would always keep their mom on its toes, who would never let her take a chill, who would never understand the true meaning behind Mother Nature, until they grew up. But the question that remains is, will us humans ever grow up?


Why are we strained of this pandemic? It’s simply the “reaction of our own actions”. We might not have seen this coming because we were too busy destroying our land, we were too busy being ungrateful, we were too busy complaining of what we did not have. We expected this earth to last forever – to provide us with whatever whenever we wanted, only so we could use and abused it, all the time.


It had to snooze off! To tell us that we are doing is erroneous. To teach us that we are not doing it right. But, will we ever understand what it is trying to tell us? We are all ready for it to wake up – heck, most of us have also disturbed her while it was taking the one-off power nap! What a stubborn mankind we have become.


Let us take this huge favor of time to reflect deeply, to slow down a bit, to understand what we are here for, to relax and to be moderate. We have had a great power nap, and are ready to emerge stronger than before, but we are yet to choose the direction that we want to go in now. So let’s choose wisely.

COVID-19 and the L&D Industry in Pakistan

In the midst of the Corona crisis, businesses both global and local, are faced with immense challenges, and some are
on the verge of going bankrupt. COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly around the world and Pakistan is no
exception. Although a lock down has been implemented as a safety measure, it has either given birth to new
challenges or exacerbated existing ones.

In this context, Carnelian reached out and conducted qualitative research in the business sector with more than
26 clients across 20 different industries. This article incorporates findings and reflections from our primary
research alongside our study of current global trends. This exercise was conducted in the first half of April and
represents findings as of mid-April 2020.

The Current Situation

This pandemic is leading to not only mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and frustration but also physical
health issues like weight gain, back and neck pain. Unlike that of the workplace, the furniture in most homes is
not designed for prolonged sitting and neither are there separate/quiet spaces conducive to focus and concentration.
However, this is not the only challenge faced by employees and management during this lockdown.

Adapting to digital transformation has been an uphill task for employees across the country. It is crucial for
leadership in every organization to create engagement and stay connected with all its employees along with other
key stakeholders in times of such uncertainty. It has been encouraging to learn that this is now being done using
the internet through various methods such as virtual training, newsletters, webinars as well as ‘fun’ internet
challenges like setting up your desk.

With most of the businesses at a near standstill, industries, such as Oil and Gas, are struggling as their revenues
have taken a big hit. To remain viable, companies are having to find savings by cutting costs through salary
reductions, redundancies, unpaid leave, and also by looking for efficiencies in areas that were previously not
given priority. New investments have been shelved too, for the time being. These measures have spread a wave
of fear and insecurity among the employees in almost every organization.

According to a report “Impact of Corona virus on Pakistan’s Economy” by Dun & Bradstreet (1) due to global trade on
a downward trajectory, exports have also taken a hit with a 12.9% m-o-m decrease in March, 2020, and is
expected to decline further down to as high as 20% by the month of June. Many small businesses are also
affected and face the looming prospect of going under. As published in Tribune (2), in case of a complete lockdown,
a forecasted 18.5m jobs will be lost across the country.


flowchart one

The Coping Mechanisms in Place

Companies are trying to streamline their processes for different departments and have managed to set up an
efficient communication network. While some companies found it easier to switch from the traditional workplace
environment to a digital one, others still seem to be struggling to adapt to the new real. A leading ride-hailing
company for example, already had systems in place where their teams were working online and from home. They
were quick to start using platforms such as Zoom for their meetings and seamlessly adjusted to the new culture.
While on the other hand, a big player in the Oil & Gas industry, has yet to align its employees around its revised
strategy. Another petroleum company has told its male employees to work from their offices and the female
employees to work from their homes, an unusual move to combat COVID-19.

What will be the New Real?

Overall most companies believe that it would take at least 6 months to recover from this pandemic while a few
are hoping that lockdown ends soon, and things start moving towards normalcy. In reality however, the expected
recovery times seem to differ on an industry to industry basis. In the oil sector, companies expect their business
to get going by the end of June. On the other hand, retail-oriented businesses in textiles and footwear expect the
shocks of COVID-19 to go on for 12 to 18 months. Ride hailing services will recover faster than public transports
as people would want to continue physical distancing for a while even after the pandemic ends.

Regardless of the industry, being ever ready for change through flexibility and adaptability, agile working is
expected to be the norm. Agile working is a form of flexible working environment where employees are
encouraged to choose how, when, and where to work. The basic idea behind this is to remain focused on
business results by maximizing flexibility.

It is heartening to note that companies that were initially slow in moving towards a digital environment, have now
started to adapt to norms of the future. Schools have moved towards e-learning and almost all organizations as
mentioned earlier are encouraging work from home, which only a few months ago, was a distant idea.

Recommendations for the L&D industry in the face of these Challenges

A major shift in the L&D industry can be seen from conventional in-house trainings to e-modules and virtual
learning. It is interesting to see that e-modules are short (10-15 minutes) and focus on one or two learning
outcomes at most. Supporting analytics keeps the organization abreast with who is learning what and how well.
Likewise, virtual trainings simulate learning experiences even though the instructor and the participants are in
separate locations. Advantages and effectiveness of digital learning platforms have now become much more
apparent to decision makers. Cost-savings on travelling, accommodation, overheads etc have led companies to
prefer digital learning over traditional learning even after the pandemic.

However, with e-learning having its benefits, to increase its effectiveness, there is a dire need to increase
engagement and interaction with employees using digital modes of learning to significantly augment traditional
methods. We say this because one of the companies mentioned that it is not feasible for them to move towards a
digital environment as they are more of a ‘traditional’ company, with most employees not having a growth
mindset and requisite skills or motivation to willingly embrace new ways of working. So for such companies it is
necessary to realize that building virtual capacity is the vital next step for L&D organizations.

Although it cannot be denied that the attraction for e-learning is now higher than ever, only time will tell, whether
traditional training will be in demand at a level it once was. One thing is for sure, that digital learning has made
its way into the L&D industry and will be a regular offering in the future, alongside traditional learning solutions.

Based on the research and discussions so far, the demand for webinars and digital content is high in the short
term and is expected to remain or even rise after the pandemic is over.

Need for having localized online courses on stress management, work-from-home, and business communication
were some of the suggestions made by the participating organizations. A concerted effort is required to run
awareness campaigns to make such offerings accessible to every individual.


Data gathered from the business sector suggests that maintaining and flourishing relationships with clients and
key stakeholders is crucial for all consulting firms. From a financial standpoint, it is as important, if not more, to
minimize cost, while striving for revenues. For organizations with premium products or services, the focus needs
to shift from pricing to volume to keep the revenues stable. According to a senior HR manager in an automobile
company, consultancies can also begin supporting SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) in business development,
growth, entrepreneurship, governance, and financial management, to help them stay afloat and sustain growth
over the long haul.



1. Published in the first week of April, 2020
2.  “Coronavirus forecast to render 18.5m jobless in Pakistan” by Shahabaz Rana published on 3rd April, 2020

Rewrite Your Script

“Magar, aap jo keh rahe hain iss ka hamari company se koi relevance nahin hai,” (“What you are saying has no relevance to our company,” – a participant told me in one of my training sessions a few years back. I had two different ways to respond at that point: 1) to assert myself and explain the context a bit further, 2) step back and reflect on what the participant had said and then pick it up with him at a later time. I chose neither and instead got into a heated debate with him and soon realized that the other participants had also rallied behind him and I almost got booted out of the room!  

Later, I recounted the incident to a senior colleague with all the gravity I could muster. He looked at me, smiled and then taking a sip of tea from his bone china cup said, “This is a serious offence that you have committed to yourself.” I was a bit baffled by his response as I expected him to say words that would allay me. Explaining himself further, he said, “Ali, you have done a serious disservice to yourself. You became defensive and your reaction revealed your insecurity.” Suddenly, the edifice of my self-esteem crumbled right in front of me.

That one conversation started a chain of questions and self-enquiry. I was indeed insecure and the need to win others’ approval was a defining feature of my operating system. Upon further reflection, I realised that it was a desire that had stemmed from my early childhood and had played out like a well-written script. I always blamed my background for my low self-esteem. For me, the word “Kaash” had become an existential reality. “Kaash I went to a big ticket school.” “Kaash I was born into a rich Lahori family.” “Kaash I was taller.” “Kaash I was more attractive.” This soon changed into a series of self-destructive actions and I started losing my mind. Then, South Africa happened!

Amidst the majestic mountains of Drakensberg, the world famous trainer Etsko Schuitema conducts a week-long self-development course called ‘Personal Excellence.” My good fortune that I was able to attend the course in September 2016. The calm of the imposing scenery and the slow pace of everything around was enough to challenge my worldview that ‘fast and loud’ was the only effective way to do things. And the Course! It was a Godsend. A true revelation in more than one way, it forced me to explore the darkest and farthest recesses of my heart to find what’s ailing me. The most resonant thought was that we have the ability to rewrite the script we follow on a daily basis.

Let me explain: I was told when I was in college that I was the sum total of my past experiences. But nobody told me about my bias for only focusing on events in the past that beset me. I thus ended up writing and following the same script over and over again, a script that made me the ‘victim’ of my own self pity. I let my past define my present for far too long. Lack of confidence or not being able to accomplish a task was conveniently blamed on my background. There was comfort in that. I did not have to do much. I just had to lay there and blame.

It hit me like a thunderbolt that it is not really our past that defines us but it is through our present that we attach meanings to our past. If I am not giving my 100% or cannot speak in English or cannot win that business contract, I will always find reasons why it did not happen and invariably those reasons would be events that occurred in my childhood. So I decided to put an end to that madness. Enough was enough.

I feel energized and empowered by the fact that I can associate meaning to an event the way I want to, in the present. If I did not win that business contract, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I now try to look at what I did and what I could do to increase my chances at the next such instance. This allows me to improve without affording me the ‘luxury’ of blaming others. Granted, there are times when I feel as if I have hit a stone wall. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t need to break the wall down and go through it. I can turn back and take another route to circumvent it and that will only happen if I do not allow that stone wall to enclose me within it. My circumstances allow me to rewrite my piece and not follow the same routine script that my ulterior self wants me to. It works!

Let me urge you to review the script you have been following all your life. Is it one punctuated with suffering, self pity, denial and rage? Or is it one full of adventure, learning, growth and love?

Interestingly, the events that make up your script are neutral. You assign them meaning. It is upto you to assign either empowering or disempowering meaning to the foundations of your script.

Seeing Things Anew

Enhancing awareness doesn’t require a search-and-destroy mission against our internal fears or judgments. It only requires recognizing and acknowledging them.”

Source: “Presence”, a book by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer,
Joseph Jaworski & Betty Sue Flowers

Only when we learn to see the ‘new’, in the ‘old’ will we arrive at a better understanding of the challenges we face in business, in society and elsewhere. I realized this when I moved to Vancouver BC, Canada, back in 2006. I was there for a couple years. It was an opportunity for me to learn, grow and explore OD consulting practices in North America. This was a big change for me as I had never lived in this part of the world before.

We rarely, individually or collectively, stop to think about the meaning and significance behind what we are observing and experiencing. Instead, we tend to react habitually to situations we face at work and in life. How most heads of states and institutions are responding to the prevailing global issues is a case in point. Today, we are witnessing degradation of our environment; the ever-growing social divide between the rich and poor; a global economic crisis; the potential dangers arising from biotechnology; and increasing ethnic and sectarian violence around the world. Can such unfolding events teach us something of value? They can, but only if we are willing to suspend judgment and reflect on what we ‘see’ carefully, and that too, with an open mind – free of bias.

While Canada is the same old world, how it works struck me as refreshingly new. Of the many new experiences, I would like to share the seemingly mundane example of public transport in Vancouver BC with you. Out there, as in Pakistan, people go about their daily business, but in very different ways. Regularity, predictability, courtesy, and precision are a norm. Even though I didn’t know my ways around the city, this fact posed no problem. For example, whenever I needed to go somewhere, I put a call to Translink (Vancouver BC’s public transport system). A very helpful agent always responded and enquired politely, “Where would you like to go; what time would you like to reach your destination; and where do you intend to start your journey from?” As soon as I conveyed the required information, I was given a detailed route plan – the train to catch – from where, and at what time; the bus number to take on arrival; time and location from where it departs; and the nearest spot to my destination at which to disembark. I ended up knowing my way from here to there in less than five minutes! And this convenience was available to all in this city. Relevant information was easily accessible on phone or the net. It made all the difference and was truly liberating.

Pakistan is a different ball game. Traveling in any of its major cities is convenient only for the few who have their own means of transport, although traffic and road conditions can be challenging at the best of times. The silent majority have to rely on public transport that is very unreliable and unsafe – an uphill task for the millions, every day, to make it safely and on time, from point A to B.

Reasons for this stark contrast appear to be self-evident at first. ‘Economics’… ‘Education’… I hear you say. But please suspend judgment. Pause. Reflect. Think deeper. The reasons for the stark differences are not necessarily the ones that come to our mind habitually.

We desperately need to enhance our awareness, by seeing and perceiving the situation afresh. In practice, this requires patience and a willingness not to impose our preconceived notions on what we are seeing. In the book, ‘Presence’ (page 31) an example is provided from when the economist Brian Arthur and his colleague, the sociologist Geoffrey McNicoll, were working in Bangladesh in the 1970s. “They spent months observing, gathering information, and ‘doing nothing.’ This was at a time when it was common for Western economists and institutions such as the World Bank to analyze needs of developing countries such as Bangladesh by simply applying traditional economic models without really questioning them. Eventually, Arthur and McNicoll developed a fresh understanding of how the ‘whole’ functioned. They showed how conditions such as landlessness and large families were self-reinforcing over time and how standard ‘band-aid’ fixes prescribed by international aid institutions only served to prop up the status quo.” This perspective helped shift focus of these institutions.

It might be worth asking why it is so difficult for us to change our attitudes and paradigms to seeing and understanding age-old problems we face in our businesses and in society. According to the authors of ‘Presence’ not being able to ‘see’ problems for what they are is universal. “Most change initiatives that end up going nowhere don’t fail because they lack grand visions and noble intentions. They fail because people can’t see the reality they face. Likewise, studies of corporate mortality show that most Fortune 500 companies fail to outlast a few generations of management not because of resource constraints, but because they are unable to ‘see’ the threats they face and the imperative to change.”

Just over a century ago, educated men came up with the concept of airships (like the famous Zeppelin). At the time experts could only ‘see’ lighter than air devices fly. Thank God, soon after, some people ‘saw’ otherwise, and we now have jet aircraft weighing over 600 tons, that are much faster and safer, connecting people all over the world. This possibility always existed. It was only when we ‘saw’ it through deeper awareness that jet planes and supersonics became reality. Many more breakthroughs in medicine, social justice, governance, communications etc., are hidden in nature’s infinite store of possibilities.

Consider this: It is the job of public servants to serve. Elected representatives come into office with the intent to serve the very people they were elected by. Wouldn’t it be nice, if our politicians simply passed a bill in parliament, making it mandatory for all government officials and their families to use the railways for domestic transport, use government run hospitals for all their healthcare needs, and send their children to government schools, colleges and universities for primary and higher education? Imagine the positive change this would make.

Status quo will prevail unless we learn to ‘see’ our old world with a new set of eyes.

Balancing Two Extremes

“The line between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and [rigidity] – is a fine one.  It is difficult to define, but those of us who are professionals and also have accepted as a career the leadership of men, must find that line.”

General Melvin Zais, US Army

Much of the literature on change and transformation talks about maximizing employee and stakeholder participation through engagement. While this is true, it is necessary to bear in mind some important caveats. In certain circumstances or times – invariably in urgent or crisis situations – leaders have to lead, and people simply have to do what they are told and follow orders. The fundamental point is to know exactly when to direct, and when to dialogue. This calls for balancing the two extremes of leadership styles – the ‘telling’ versus the empowered approaches.

In a recent team engagement session I conducted for an oil and gas company, its CFO shared the following illuminating piece. It was an extract from an article by General Melvin Zais of the US army:

“The day I assumed command of this division I enjoined the leaders to take care of their men. I have reiterated this statement many times since then. Even so, I again find it necessary to call this matter to your attention. Taking care of your men includes food, shelter, pay, clothing, mail and recreation, but even more important is your attitude.

  • You cannot expect a soldier to be a proud soldier if you humiliate him.
  • You cannot expect him to be brave if you abuse him.
  • You cannot expect him to be strong if you break him.
  • You cannot ask for respect and obedience and willingness to assault hot landing zones, climb up back-breaking ridges or destroy dug-in emplacements if your soldier has not been treated with the respect and dignity which fosters unit spirit and personal pride.

The line between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and [rigidity] – is a fine one.  It is difficult to define, but those of us who are professionals and also have accepted as a career the leadership of men, must find that line.  It is because judgements and people and human relationships are involved in leadership that only men can lead men, and not computers.

I enjoin you to be ever alert to the pitfalls of too much authority.  For the very junior leader beware that you do not fall in the category of the little man with a little job and with a big head.  In essence, be considerate.  Treat your subordinates right and they will literally die for you”.

One thing is clear, that both the directive and empowering styles of leadership are appropriate in change management – but in different contexts, and for different reasons and purposes. It is accepted the world over that embracing change is absolutely vital for the success of all organizations. Yet, why is it that change programs often fail to meet desired goals? Need for research into the success factors and causes of failure in change programs has never been greater.

Happily, most new ideas and trends in change management are not rocket science. However, they merit serious consideration as we grapple with the demands posed by the 21st century. N. Machiavelli captures the essence of the challenge thus: “There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to be a leader in the introduction of changes. For he, who innovates, will have for enemies all those who are well off under the old order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.”

Nature abhors status quo. Change has been with us since the beginning of time and will endure. The least we can do is to keep ourselves abreast with the unfolding realities in our business and socio-economic environment and adapt accordingly, or simply perish. Ideally, we should be able to read the trends in our respective industries and markets and try to stay ahead of the game.

How individuals and organizations respond to the challenges of sustaining growth will vary significantly. For example, a small organization may want to expand into new markets by opening a local sales office overseas as part of its strategy. On the other hand, a large multinational may decide to centralize or consolidate certain operations into a single location. Some may want to switch from a national brand and attempt to create a single global brand, while others may favor creation of global business units with regional operations. Such strategic considerations will involve plenty of management time gathering and analyzing relevant data; considering the pros and cons of each alternative; and working out ways that will make the needed organization-wide changes effective.

Competitive pressures, organizational life-cycle, internal succession, technology, geo-politics, regulation & deregulation, and market expectations continue to be dynamic, forcing organizations to continuously renew and revitalize themselves. This requires constant unlearning and re-learning – something most managers understand at an intellectual level, but have difficulty practicing in real life.

In one of your future meetings, ask your managers, “Do people need to change?” Invariably all hands will go up, signifying a resounding “Yes”! Then ask a follow-up question, “Do you need to change?” And notice the pause and silence, before hands go up slowly and reluctantly. It’s easy to point fingers at others. It’s high time we learned to look within ourselves.

“Things” change only if people change. And people only change if they see the world differently. This implies the need for continuous personal development. The essential truth is that you cannot force people to change; they have to want to change.

In light of the above, the challenge for leadership in organizations is to take their people through some form of an interactive process that enables them to understand what is happening within and around their organization. This helps them to draw their own conclusions about the implications and options in change. Such programs need to take place at all levels – those of the individual, team and the organization.

Everyone needs to get involved and engaged in the debate about future directions and change. Through such an approach we mobilize energy for change through joint diagnosis of business problems and collective search for possible solutions. Organizations like United Energy Pakistan, Engro Corp and Karachi Electric Supply Co (KESC), and many others, are successfully managing change by following such a participative strategy. The good news is that major local companies in Pakistan are also joining the foray.

We need to keep in mind a growing social trend worldwide, that of the increasing importance and power of the individuals. The implications for change are profound. In every area of change, there is an increasing awareness of the need to treat people as individuals – understanding, respecting, valuing and working within the sphere of the individual. This requires considerable amounts of time for understanding, planning, tolerance, and flexibility. We need to get wiser at change by understanding its complexities and subtleties, and adopt more practical and relevant approaches to it.

In other words, we need to consider an integrative approach. It makes sense, but produces some difficult choices for those charged with bringing change. There are strong, positive benefits for organizations that adopt a broader approach. However, the downside is the amount of discussion and debate that is required to consolidate differing views and perspectives on issues.

By the balancing the two extremes we can not only create a buy-in of all key stakeholders, but can also drastically reduce the time to implement agreed plans and strategies as there will be much less resistance and fewer surprises during execution.