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Archive for the ‘Management Lessons’ Category

bellcurveThe pre-dominance of the Bell Curve in performance appraisals has never been in doubt. It recognizes the fact that all people are not identical, the tasks assigned to them are different, and the environment they operate in need not be homogeneous. All organizations have their share of high performers, free riders, under-performers, and downright deadwood.

A well understood Bell Curve principle is about building meritocracy and practising a differentiated rewards strategy. It has its own limitations, especially in highly innovative outfits. However, it keeps the bar high, thereby helping an organization to scale greater heights.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’)

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Advertising

As a Chief Executive Officer, if you hire lions like Pablo Picasso or MF Hussain to create a corporate emblem for your company, would there be any point in getting a bunch of giraffe Vice Presidents and General Managers to meddle with his final work? Define a target and a budget, and let the agency have a free hand.

As a trainee cub, join an ad agency if you love irregular working hours, midnight escapades and hobnobbing with the hoi polloi of creative geniuses whose king (or, queen) size egos need to be managed at all times, with clients’ deadlines looming large over your work horizon. Depending on your skill set, you may gravitate towards copywriting, production, media planning, or client servicing. In all cases, creativity under pressure should be the motto of your life.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’)

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Celebrating the first anniversary of having launched a book in Portuguese in March 2016.

English version to follow soon….!

ashokbhatia

Surviving in the Corporate Jungle

BookFrontCover

This is a short introduction to a book by yours truly, the Portugese version of which is getting launched in Portugal shortly. The launch event  in Porto is planned on the 2nd of March, along with a talk on “Work Life Harmony” at the  Catolica Porto Business School  of  Universidade Catolica do Porto. The launch event in Lisbon is planned at Universidade Europeia on the 3rd of March, 2016, as part of an event titled ‘Passport to India.’

How this book happened

Forty years back, the School of Business at a prestigious university in India made a big mistake. They awarded me a degree in Business Management. They were so very happy to see me off the campus that they even awarded a silver medal to me.

I owe this book to my professors – some of whom taught so well that I learnt a…

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India offers to the world an immensely rich collection of sacred scriptures.rig-veda First and foremost are the Vedas, which could be justifiably referred to as the core of the spiritual and psychological soft power of India. Then there are the Upanishads, which capture the highest spiritual knowledge and experience that India can offer to the world.

India also has Puranas, Itihasas, Tantras, Dharma Shastras, and Sutras, besides the innumerable works of religious poetry in regional languages.

Ramayana and Mahabharata

Amongst Indian scriptures, Ramayana and Mahabharata happen to be the most popular narratives. Both are pregnant with mature thought. Both contain teachings of political, religious, ethical and social kind. Both showcase, in a relatively simple language than that of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Indian idea of Dharma, or righteousness.valmiki_ramayana

Both appeal to the soul as well as to the imagination of an intelligent mind. Even illiterates find gems of wisdom in these two epics. If philosophy, ethics, morals, social concepts, political thoughts or administrative justice form the warp in this unique fabric, heroic tales, human emotions, poetry, aesthetics, fiction, romance and villainy form the weft.

These epics showcase a highly developed sense of ethics and values, social and cultural realities of a distant past, besides intellectual and philosophical refinement. Lay persons could draw several life lessons from both these works. So could professionals of all hues.

Sanskrit, the supreme language  

Sanskrit is the language which forms the bedrock of a vast majority of these works. An intimate feeling of the language helps in understanding the multi-layered narratives better. One acquires a heightened sensitivity towards the shades of style and the context in which a statement is being made.

In today’s inter-connected world, one may not know Sanskrit but can still savour a fraction of the fragrant nectar of knowledge offered through any of the Indian scriptures.mahabharata-vyasa-ganesha

Sacred scriptures comprise a minor part of all the Sanskrit literature available from the Vedic to the pre-modern times. Nonetheless, they form the bedrock of Indian culture and spirituality.

Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial

Bhagavad Gita forms an integral part of Mahabharata, appearing in its Bhishma Parva. It comprises eighteen chapters. Broadly speaking, this unique composition touches upon three kinds of Yogas – Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action), Gnana Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (The Yoga of Devotion). [Yoga is a term which is often confused with physical practices of a certain kind. However, the term is used here in the sense of describing a communion, specifically the communion of an individual soul with the Divine.]

Upanishads articulate the philosophical principles concerning mankind, world and God. Gita explains the manner in which human beings can practice these subtle philosophical principles in their mundane lives.

Soulful management

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is that Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaof the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In his book ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen Covey urges professionals to pay heed to their ‘inner voice’. While proposing the whole person paradigm, he speaks of the four dimensions of a person – spirit, body, heart and mind.

From a management point of view, perhaps the most relevant are the concepts espoused under the overall umbrella of Karma Yoga. Here, Lord Krishna emphasizes the importance of self-less action, free of its rewards and gains. A state of inaction is held to be another form of action itself.

Gita III 6

कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन्।

इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते।।

[A hypocrite is one who suffers from a false notion of having self-discipline. He is someone who controls the organs of action but continues to dwell upon the objects of sense.]

Gita III 7

यस्त्विन्द्रियाणि मनसा नियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन।

कर्मेन्द्रियैः कर्मयोगमसक्तः स विशिष्यते।।

[He who controls his senses by his mind and engages with the organs of action in a Yoga of Action achieves excellence in whatever he does.]

The concepts enshrined under Gnana Yoga are also highly relevant for management professionals. This is so because one of the major challenges in their careers is to keep unlearning, so the process of real learning can never cease.

Smart professionals always keep an open mind. They strive to keep abreast of latest technological developments. They keep learning from their failures as well as from their successes.

The Yoga of Devotion

When it comes to Bhakti Yoga, the relevance of what Gita says is perhaps bhagavad_gitasomewhat limited as far as a practicing professional is concerned.

Loyalty and devotion – to a superior as well as to the company – are terms which readily spring to one’s mind. But in the absence of a truly charismatic business leader of the stature of Lord Krishna, blind devotion could perhaps lead to a catastrophe in one’s profession. A sense of misplaced loyalty often becomes an excuse for senior managers to remain in their comfort zones. Accepting fresh challenges becomes a key challenge. Their skill-sets start getting rusted. Much like stones which do not roll, they start gathering moss.

Time to rediscover the Gita

There is much that CEOs and managers can learn from the Bhagavad Gita. Its language is pregnant with symbolism at times. But it has rich lessons to offer for day-to-day conduct of business.

This stream of knowledge is close to 3,500 years old. It is never too late to rediscover it.

(Illustrations courtesy Wikipedia)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/management-lessons-from-mahabharata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/some-management-lessons-from-india)

 

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panjab-university-ubs

An academic course in management obviously does not offer lessons in managing the affairs of the heart. But the Class of 1977 broke through the academic shackles, with some of its members walking out of the campus with a clear strategy as to who their future soul mate shall be.

The stiff-upper-lip approach

Management education is all about the stiff-upper-lip approach of the mind. Analytical skills rule supreme, leading to rummy situations where analysis often leads to paralysis. Linear programming models get worked upon. Statistical techniques get dished out by stern looking professors who might have been hotter in their jobs more as police officers or as judges.

Hapless students are made to understand exponential smoothening techniques so as to be able to forecast business parameters in an uncertain business environment. Those with an engineering background struggle to match their debits and credits. The lucky ones who have had a background in commerce twiddle their fingers trying to grasp the complexities of quantitative techniques in decision-making.

The neglected need to boost our EQs

The behavioural sciences do provide a little bit of cheer to the tormented souls undergoing a typical MBA course. But to understand the psychology of an individual is no mean task. Mere case studies and management tips for handling an industrial strife do not improve one’s EQ substantially. Handling a tough boss eventually gets learnt only in the corporate world outside. The real world also teaches us to handle errant subordinates whose emotional blackmail upon reporting for work after a spell of French leave needs deft handling. The harsh realities of business world provide a high quality learning which can surely not be replicated within the stifling confines of a classroom.

The dashers and the rabbits

In fact, for some of those who formed the batch of 1977, the beautifully laid out campus outside provided a far better laboratory to test their hypotheses on the softer matters of the heart. These were the chosen ones who were smitten by the tender arrows of a smart Cupid.

The snag in the business of falling in love is much like that of mixed up career choices. Take an introvert and put him in a marketing assignment and the results could be disastrous. Take an extrovert used to making tall claims and put him in charge of manufacturing. The customers could soon melt away, leaving the company grappling with a credibility gap.

Bertie image

Same is the case in matters of love. As per the Bertie Wooster doctrine:

“….parties of the first part so often get mixed up with the wrong parties of the second part, robbed of their cooler judgment by the parties of the second part’s glamour. Put it like this. The male sex is divided into rabbits and non-rabbits and the female sex into dashers and dormice, and the trouble is that the male rabbit has a way of getting attracted by a female dasher (who would be fine for the male non-rabbit) and realizing too late that he ought to have been concentrating on some mild, gentle dormouse with whom he could settle down peacefully and nibble lettuce.”

The USP of the Class of 1977

The batch of 1977 had as many as five members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Since the previous one, the Class of 1976, had none, they were the cynosure of all eyes. They were invariably the prime focus of attention for many of us in the batch of 1976. All we seniors required was an inane excuse to pop up and try to grab the attention of at least one out of the five pairs of eyes we could feast on. The faculty members simply loved them – not necessarily for their academic proficiency, but merely for ensuring some discipline amongst the men folk loitering around.

Some of the members of our tribe of the so-called sterner sex were the shy and silent kind. Some were busy chasing their academic pursuits and kept their hormones under check. Others were benignly interested but limited their interactions to admiring gazes alone. Very few were the dashing types who, their puny chests all puffed up, attempted to indicate a more than passing interest in the parties of the other part.

Managed walks down the aisle

Those were traditional times when the distinction between an ‘arranged marriage’, a ‘love marriage’ and a ‘love marriage which had to be managed’ was pretty clear. Live-in relationships were not heard of.

The majority amongst us believed in the straight and narrow path that life offered then – the comfort of an ‘arranged marriage’ where the parents take the flak for subsequent problems, if any, and where love blossomed, albeit hesitatingly in some cases, much after the walk down the aisle took place. The time on the campus was, therefore, used by the members of this tribe merely to exchange furtive glances, suffer the pangs of transient infatuations and a silent admiration for the physical profile of the party of the other part.

pu-student-center

Then there were the dashing types, the risk takers who could use their time on the campus to firm up their affection for each other and concoct some dreamy plans for their future together. To avoid inquisitive and prying eyes, they would often vanish in thin air, possibly to land in such distant locales as the Sukhna Lake or the Rose Garden.

Management knowledge put to loving use

These were indeed the souls which put most of their management knowledge to actual use. No manual has been published till now, but it is clear that strategic decisions were taken by them with due diligence. Flawless planning and execution followed. Regression Analysis was applied to ensure that respective parents fell in line with the wishes of their wards. Soft-nosed commerce was used to draw up joint P&L Accounts and Balance Sheet, so the planned merger would face little financial turbulence. Principals of Materials Management were applied to ensure that the eventual stock transfer of one party to the abode of the party of the other part was carried out in a smooth and cordial fashion. Inspiration was drawn from a random sample of other couples who had successfully handled their affairs in an exemplary fashion.

Managing the Affairs of the Heart

cupidCupid, when it chooses to strike, is pretty democratic in nature. If one of the Class of 1977 decided to hitch her lot with a classmate of hers, yet another signed and sealed a merger deal with a senior of the Class of 1976. Both lived happily thereafter!

Close to forty years down the road, looking at the success of these mergers and alliances, it is highly regrettable that management academics still continue to adopt the stiff-upper-lip approach which focuses on analytical skills alone.

A day should surely dawn when ‘Managing the Affairs of the Heart’ gets introduced as a compulsory full semester subject across all management institutes; a time when doctoral theses on such subjects shall be encouraged.

After all, there are as many management lessons to be drawn from the works of Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, P G Wodehouse, O Henry and Jane Austen as can be gleaned from the tomes dished out by such luminaries as Peter F Drucker, McGregor and Philip Kotler.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/the-class-of-1990-how-ubs-prompted-sandeep-mann-to-learn-management-from-movies)

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On the occasion of Thiruvalluvar day, celebrated on this day in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, in memory of Saint Thiruvalluvar who is said to have lived in a period between second century BC and 8th century AD.

ashokbhatia

Thirukkural (திருக்குறள்), also known as the Kural, is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature composition. It has 1,330 couplets or ‘kurals’. It was authored by the renowned poet Thiruvalluvar.

The Thirukkural is one of the most important works in the Tamil language. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is given by such as ‘Tamil marai’ (Tamil Vedas); ‘poyyamozhi’ (words that never fail); and ‘Deiva nool’ (divine text).

Just like ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’, ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ and other scriptures, Thirukkural is also replete with words of wisdom. It is simple and contains profound messages.

Thirukkural has 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets. Broadly speaking, all the 133 chapters can be divided into three sections: Righteousness, Wealth and Love. In the text below, the serial number of each couplet appears on the top, followed by its Tamil text and then by…

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Here is a good list of Hollywood movies which concern the area of management.

As to Bollywood, two movies come to my mind, especially when it comes to Work Life Harmony: ‘Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein‘ and ‘Baar Baar Dekho‘. Elsewhere, we have already had a look at movies from which we could draw rich management lessons.

Enjoy these over the next weekend!

MiddleMe

One thing that always never fail to pull me up when I am down and frustrated is when I stumbled upon a movie that inspires me to do more in my work and to bring me back to the same spot where I believe in me, my passion. Today, I like to share those movies with you and hopefully that maybe one or two will inspire you when you have your down days.

Pursue of Happyness

This movie is my favourite career inspirational movie. Will Smith made me cry, gave me hope and had me rooting for him. It is one of the movies that I will make my sales team watch it. The raw emotions are so real and raw, it is motivating right up until the end. If you haven’t watch it, you should. If you are working as a sales person, you should watch it. If you…

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