Posts Tagged ‘Decision Making’

Members of the tribe of managers who believe in the ‘I and Me’ approach have swollen minds and shallow hearts. They live in a virtual reality of their own, surfing atop the turbulent waves of life in a belief that they remain in total control of things. They think that they punch all the right buttons in their careers. Successes get attributed to their own actions and initiatives. Failures get attributed to external circumstances, to other people, or to the business environment in general.

In terms of an upgraded Blake-Mouton Grid, they have a propensity to evolve into a leader for whom results alone count. Concern for People gets relegated to the background. Concern for Ethics gets swept under the carpet and conveniently forgotten. In other words, they become CEOs who end up becoming road rollers.

Take the case of a young engineer from India who goes on to pursue his higher studies in one of the advanced countries of the world. He builds a career for himself, gets married, buys his own house, raises a family and even acquires the citizenship of the country where he has settled down. He starts believing that he is an all-powerful and accomplished person, and has the freedom to do what he wants. He prides himself on the fact that his spouse, an independent professional in her own right, is in that country owing to him alone. By implication, she has to be beholden and subservient to him. What he does not realize is the role destiny also has played in his career and life. A hard blow could well make him see the folly of ascribing all his achievements to his capabilities alone.

Free Will, Destiny and a dash of humility

One of the things such persons badly need is a dash of humility, professionally as well as personally. They could do with some introspection in all cases of successes and failures. A pitiless analysis of any success would invariably reveal key factors which not only assisted but also enabled them to achieve it. Likewise, a root cause analysis of a failure might reveal to them what they could have done better in the given situation. It might even show where they personally contributed to their own downfall.

A realization that one is not destined to exercise one’s so-called free will indiscriminately can help one to progress on the path of humility. In any case, the view that human beings are free to exercise their free will has always been a debatable one. Often, hapless Homo sapiens feel as if they are mere puppets going through motions in life according to a grand plan, ostensibly pre-determined by a superior power.

Take the case of an aspiring manager who has just finished her education from an Ivy League institution. She does not entirely control the kind of company she ends up starting her career with. Nor does she control the kind of boss, peers or subordinates she might end up working with. She could very well analyze the business environment the organization operates in. But she has little control over the same.

Going with the flow

Generally speaking, in life, one does not control one’s own birth or death. Nor does one control the kind of parents, extended family and friends one may merit. One merely goes with the flow, so to say.

Omar Khayyam thought one is no better than water, flowing willy-nilly, ‘where Destiny with men for Pieces plays’. He proposed that one merely follows an unalterable script in one’s life, as dished out by our Guardian Angels.

Contrast this with the traditional view of Judgment Day of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This view is based on the conviction that each person is wholly responsible for her conduct in life. The Hindu view of karma also supposes choice for individual human beings.

To participate in, and to submit to, the collective rhythm of creation is to attain bhakti, Narada Sutra says. This marks progress towards humility.

‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings’, says the poet (Julius Ceaser, Act 1, Scene 2).

The ‘We and Us’ Approach to decision-making

Life is much like river rafting, where one may make choices while negotiating the rapids. But the scope of the individual will is rather limited. In one’s career, the scope of the individual will is to choose between making decisions entirely based on one’s individual ego, thereby becoming an ‘I and Me’ manager. Alternately, one may choose to surrender to a higher power, and perform one’s action without attachment to the results thereof. This choice would lead one to a ‘We and Us’ approach to decision-making.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna exhorts us to do precisely this: Practice detachment.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅ
go ’stvakarmaṇi

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

In this unique scripture, the performance of one’s own duties is said to lead to the creation of one’s destiny. Thus, one’s actions are held to be superior to one’s destiny.

(A version of this post appears in a yet-to-be-released book by yours truly. It connects Gita to the realm of Management.) 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/heartfulness-management-and-leadership)

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CEOs lead a challenging life. Apart from making and meeting long-term business goals, they face a relentless SQpressure, living from one quarter to the next. Customers have to be handled with kid gloves. Suppliers have to be kept in good humour. People have to be kept motivated at all times. Interpersonal conflicts between team members have to be sorted out. A lonely life has to be lived.

Unlike their juniors who invariably face Peer Pressure, CEOs face Pear Pressure. Some call it signs of prosperity. Some refer to it as a Battle of the Bulge. Others label it as flab around the waist.

The Battle of the Bulge

A CEO in possession of a portly disposition projects an image of a soul which has finally attained salvation and has become a super-hero of the species generally alluded to as managers. Walk into any gathering of the top dogs across most…

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CEOs lead a challenging life. Apart from making and meeting long-term business goals, they face a relentless SQpressure, living from one quarter to the next. Customers have to be handled with kid gloves. Suppliers have to be kept in good humour. People have to be kept motivated at all times. Interpersonal conflicts between team members have to be sorted out. A lonely life has to be lived.

Unlike their juniors who invariably face Peer Pressure, CEOs face Pear Pressure. Some call it signs of prosperity. Some refer to it as a Battle of the Bulge. Others label it as flab around the waist.

The Battle of the Bulge

A CEO in possession of a portly disposition projects an image of a soul which has finally attained salvation and has become a super-hero of the species generally alluded to as managers. Walk into any gathering of the top dogs across most professions and one would be convinced that bosses are generally more portly than their bossed-over managers.

The smarter the top boss, the more he is likely to make his team members run around achieving targets. In the process, the juniors end up getting flatter tummies, a much-coveted attribute. In turn, hard-working subordinates often end up making their bosses lazier, with the latter ending up with convex-shaped protrusions in their midriffs.

Over 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight. Of these, some 600 million are further classified as obese. How does this come about? Lack of exercise is said to be the main culprit. Stress is yet another. Genetic factors take a part of the blame. Long working hours leading to lesser workouts get blamed.Exercise 1

Of decision-making and waistlines

Recently, a study by Australian universities has ended up linking decision-making to higher Body Mass Index.

According to researchers, people whose work days require constant decision-making are at greater risk of expanded waistlines. Conversely, workers who exercise control by regularly applying their skills to their jobs — known as skill discretion — were found to have lower Body Mass Index and a smaller waist size.

In other words, the researchers conclude that it is skinny people who are most often good at what they do and enjoy using their skills. However, those who have the power to make decisions are distinctly wider around the middle.

This justifies the derisive term Fat Cats often used to refer to those who control the levers of business. Admittedly, larger waistlines are perhaps a consequence of the CEOs’ sedentary job requirements instead of being the reason for their elevation to decision-making levels.

Perhaps further studies may reveal that weighty decisions need personal countervailing ballast in order to be balanced. It sounds as if power ends up making business leaders more expansive.

Beyond the Peter Principle

Concerned CEOs may wish further research to be designed in such a way as to establish the veracity of some Peters_principle.svgprinciples of the following kind:

1. A manager’s waistline is directly proportional to his position in any decision-making hierarchy.

2.  According to the Peter Principle, in any organization, employees rise to their level of incompetence. Further studies could confirm if their rise is also linked to the propensity of their bodies to achieve the maximum girth permitted by their constitution.

3.  Depending upon their Body Mass Index and the waistline, successful CEOs could be classified into three categories.
Potato CEOs: Those who have dazzled with their performance in the good old days. They have outgrown   the stage of feeling Pear Pressure.
Pear CEOs: Those who are currently guiding teams and delivering reasonably good results. The hapless souls are yet to come to terms with their pear-shaped midriffs.
Banana CEOs: Those who are good at planning as well as execution. They aspire to attain the status of Peer CEOs, without their bariatric blues.

4. For Potato CEOs, Pear CEOs are objects of envy. Likewise, Pear CEOs, howsoever reassured they might sound, secretly aspire to be like Banana CEOs, with concave-shaped bellies.

5. A hypothesis that can be put to test would be if the rate of rise in a hierarchy determines the rate of increase in waistlines.

6. All these propositions need to be cross-validated across different cultures and societies.

Such studies would enrich the science of Hierarchiology. These would be highly useful for head hunters as well as for Human Resource professionals. The insights gained thus would enable managers of all sizes and shapes to improve their quality of life.

Pear Pressure in organizations

Ironically, what is true of individual CEOs is also true of organizations.

The very successful and dynamic ones indulge in frequent bariatric surgeries and ensure that their midriffs remainZOO ORGANIZATIONS under strict control. They are acutely aware of Pear Pressure and have checks and balances in place to avoid carrying excessive flab.

The mediocre ones end up accumulating flab in the middle. At every success, they end up hiring more people than is necessary. At every failure, they undergo a liposuction procedure. They have learnt the art of managing Pear Pressure.

The not-so-successful organizations have the highest Body Mass Index. They are replete with massive layers in their hierarchies. Their processes are bogged down with archaic procedures. Most public sector undertakings are shining examples of this kind.

This is THE challenge all CEOs need to fight single-handedly. They have to wage a relentless war on adipose tissue of all kinds. Unless they decide to take the matter in their own hands, literally as well as metaphorically, the excess belly fat – whether on their own personas or in their organizations – would refuse to melt away.

(Reference: http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/how-your-job-could-be-influencing-your-waistline-study.html)

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Hire a quality expert who is practical and does not live in an ivory tower, or else your billings may nosedive and your entire manufacturing team may end up doing only rework.

In the services sector, quality invariably means an extension of the core job being done. A shipping agent who keeps you updated of the status of a shipment at all times is a delight to work with; so is a dentist who sends you a discreet s-m-s reminding you of your appointment that evening.

To quote Dr. Laurence J Peter and Raymond Hull: “……man cannot achieve his greatest fulfilment through seeking quantity for quantity’s sake; he will achieve it through improving the quality of life, in other words, through avoiding life-incompetence.”



Quite a few times, a team leader has to let go of his quantitative obsession and take a decision off the seat of his pants. A crucial input to decision-making is intuition and gut feel. In turn, intuition and gut feel get sharpened over a period of time by the sheer availability of good quality quantitative data.



A well designed questionnaire is an important tool in any research project. It pays to pre-test one before freezing it. However, in case of behavioural and attitudinal studies, a structured interview approach works much better.


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Leadership is a much discussed virtue in management literature. However, like Peter Drucker says, there is no ideal type of leader. “Leadership personality’, ‘leadership style’ and ‘leadership traits’ don’t exist”, he writes in The Leader of the Future. The emergence of a leader is the result of a complex interplay of two factors – personality traits of the leader and what needs to be done at a given point in time. The moment the two become congruent, a new leader could emerge on the scene and deliver the goodies!LEADERS

There is no doubt that the leaders of tomorrow would need personality traits which would be qualitatively different from those of today. Here is my take on what business environment circa 2025 would be like, and how our future business leaders would be tackling it.

2025 – A Likely Business Scenario

What would be the business environment like in 2025? Several CEOs I spoke to said that business leaders in 2025 shall be working against the backdrop of a world which would, in all likelihood, be a multi-polar one, with Asia, particularly China, exerting more influence on global events. It would be a world which would be more inter-connected, commercially and otherwise. Thanks to new communication means, the individual empowerment levels would have risen significantly. Also, it would be a more urbanized world. Thanks to the rise of a new global middle-class, society in general would have reached a higher level of aspiration, resulting into a much higher demand for energy, food and water. On the flip side, income disparities would have risen substantially. Changes arising out of our climatic patterns would also pose a formidable challenge to the leaders of those times.

We could still be in for surprises, though. Disruptive changes are quite likely to overwhelm us. These changes could come in the form of impact of new technologies in the field of robotics, biotechnology, space sciences and communication. Increasingly, governments world over may start becoming enablers of entrepreneurship, faced as they will be with direct and intensive pressure from those they govern. We shall surely be seeing more entrepreneurs amongst our midst – whether in the commercial sector or in the societal sector.

A Business Leader in 2025

Decision Making Under Higher Uncertainty

Since the level of entropy in the system would have gone up further by then, a business leader of circa 2025 would have to be adept at making decisions under a higher level of uncertainty. The abnormal today would be the new normal, and many a leader would be feeling more like experts at river rafting in our economic and statutory rapids, often being called upon to go against the current.

I am not an expert in Econometrics, but could venture to guess that for those who are quantitatively inclined, advanced statistical tools would come in even more handy. I say so because there will be an overdose of data as well as information available to a business leader then. However, ultimately, his/her intuitive abilities – based on personal experiences in their formative years – would prove to be more valuable.

Sir Colin Marshall, the ex-Chairman of British Airways, transformed his organization into one of the premier customer service kinds in the days of yore. The uncertainty he faced in the period of his association with BA was monumental and serves as an example to be followed by CEOs of future.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon came up with the concept of ‘predictive analytics’, paving the way for all of us to enjoy the convenience of shopping on-line.

Higher Trust in Instincts

A logical corollary of the above would be the need for a leader to be ahead of the curve. Those who have counter-intuitive responses and place a higher trust in their natural instincts would surely fare better. In turn, there would be a strong need for a much higher degree of inner resilience, because this alone would enable them to keep their stress levels under control even in trying circumstances. Dynamism will be yet another critical input. It would ensure that they are able to steer their businesses through the dense economic fog enveloping the business highways.

The World Economic Forum had proposed a theme centered on the twin traits of resilience and dynamism for 2013. Given that there are no risk free growth models available to leaders and CEOs of the future, one could not agree more with this proposition.

A good example of facing flak and not losing sight of one’s goals is that of Larry Page of Google. He continues to trust his instincts and doing what he thinks is best for his business.

A Global Mindset

Given a much more inter-connected world, a business leader in the future would need to possess a vast knowledge of commercial, behavioral and societal norms followed in different parts of the world. A primary task would obviously be to ensure that his/her organization has world-class management processes. Only those institutionalizing best practices in strategic planning, marketing and human relations would be able to make their organization a successful one.  The fact that a leader would, in all likelihood, be leading a multicultural team of followers would pose a challenge – irrespective of whether the situation demands a leadership which is ‘transactional’ or ‘transformational’.

When one considers the example of Compaq’s Eckard Pfeiffer, who was a leader in a race against himself, it becomes clear as to how organizational renewal can be brought about. “No matter what industry a company competes in”, he said, “it must live with one foot in the present and the other in the future….there is simply no other way to build world leadership”.

A Democratic Style

The profile of the followers would also be different. Hierarchical authority is already proving difficult to manage change; there is no reason to believe this would not be even more so in the future. The followers would demand a higher degree of participation in the decision-making processes. Leaders who recognize this need of their followers and create a working environment which enables the same would achieve higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness in their business processes.

Creating a non-coercive environment in which employees and other stakeholders are clear about the corporate identity and the mission would be far more important than it is today. Reverse mentoring would be more a norm than an exception in the days to come.

Monsanto’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, had the ability to go against traditional hierarchy. He initiated strategy sessions with cross-sections of employees of different ranks, specialties and geographical perspectives and reaped rich dividends for his company.

The Moral Compass

Leaders who believe in sustainable businesses would not only use their commercial compass while determining the direction to take. Using a moral compass would be a valuable trait amongst the future leaders. A strong inner core, embedded with a value system which recognizes the needs of the society at large, would be a great quality to have. A pre-condition for employing key managers would be their endorsement and support of the core values of the business.

When the likes of Siemens and Wal-Mart come clean on their misdemeanors, they set an excellent example of probity in the business world. When Mr. Ratan Tata, the Chairman Emeritus of India’s salt to software conglomerate rues his inability to enter some fields of business because of the absence of a level playing field in India, his focus is on one of the core values of his business.

Indra Nooyi is charting a unique course for PepsiCo globally, shedding traditional markets and going in for healthier food products instead.

 Preparing Leaders for 2025

Captains of industry today can set a personal example by getting cross-functional teams in their organizations to come up with suggestions to face the challenges of future effectively. They can also emulate some of the traits, thereby leading to a trickle-down effect across the entire organization.

HR honchos can re-design their appraisal processes and re-assess training needs of key managers to address this issue.

Those in senior management positions can consciously plan to hone their skills in areas they find themselves deficient.

Management institutes can tweak their course content to ensure that those leaving their hallowed portals possess these traits, so as to improve their contribution towards the organizations they decide to either float or serve.

And our time to start preparing the leaders of tomorrow starts now!


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Strategic decisions made in a jiffy on a sudden impulse could lead to disasters. The company could end up having a wrong plant location, an outdated product, or a service of which the time is yet to come. Changing such a decision would invariably be an expensive affair.
Run of the mill decisions, like which brand of Xerox paper to buy for the office, or whether the car parking positions of officers should depend on hierarchy or time of arrival, are best delegated and left to be made at the operational level, where the executives are closer to the ground realities.

When you can’t do something as well as the other person can, a smart choice you can make is that of delegating the task; that is, moving from doing it yourself to getting it done through others. If you do not learn to delegate, you could suffocate.
Trust, instinct, communication and control are the pre-requisites of delegation. Delegation without benchmarking and monitoring of targets is abdication!

Designations are not important in cases where the external exposure of the employee is minimal. They form the psychological part of an employee’s compensation package.DESIGNATIONS
For those whose role demands an external exposure, a higher sounding designation would improve the canvas of opportunities, enabling a faster realization of company’s goals.
For employees who have outlived their core utility in companies which believe in firing people only when there is a disaster of a nuclear nature, an improvement in designation would be a valuable tool in the HR arsenal.

Beware of managements which exhort you to follow the much misunderstood principle of detachment expounded in the Gita – you should continue to slog all year long but do not expect that elusive overdue promotion. Do a reality check – are you repeating your own past performance? Is there a way you can improve the quality of your targets? Upgrade your work plans and actions accordingly.
If you can follow the principle of detachment, though, mental peace is guaranteed.

Invited to be a director on the board of a company? Accept the offer only after a due diligence at your own risk and peril. You may earn a modest fee and some handsome privileges, but would have little control over the kind of legal and procedural misadventures taking place across the company. Unless, of course, getting served with a notice or landing in a jail is your idea of having fun in life.

If you wish to start a relationship with the receptionist, better give the idea skip. There is not much difference between a manager rooting for an executive and a cashier having his hands in the till. Managements need to handle such cases with discretion; if the manager concerned is otherwise a good performer, he can be helped to get transferred to a temptation free location and kept under watch. Another misdemeanor, just throw him out.
Complex businesses require discretion in handling information of a sensitive nature – could be related to pay packets, new products and services or long term business plans. Judge the pros and cons and be discreet wherever necessary.

In what are euphemistically known as “matrix” organizations, reporting to several bosses at the same time could be a challenging experience. One has to learn to balance each one’s expectations against those of others. Much depends on their relative seniority or clout in the company, based on which one could handle the situation. Of course, it does not pay to pitch one of your bosses against the other, whether directly or indirectly.

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