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Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

ashokbhatia

What is the best Christmas present a CEO can give to her organization?

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, the best gift could perhaps be a resolve to take decisions based not only on commercial considerations but also on sound ethics and values. Decisions which would serve the strategic interests of the organization and would never lead it to a situation of public disgrace and compromise.

An upgraded Blake Mouton Grid

If one were to take the liberty of modifying the Blake Mouton grid, the leadership style of such a CEO would qualify for either a 9,9,9 or a 5,5,5 classification.X Y Z upgraded

Here is a quick rundown on the various leadership styles which emerge from a grid of this nature:

1,1,1: Charmless Charlies

One can only wish their organizations the best of luck.

9,1,1: Road Rollers

They would achieve a target by ruthlessly crushing anything that comes in their way.

1,9,1:…

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Saint Thiruvalluvar was a humble weaver and an enlightened soul who gave us the Thirukkural, one of the finest specimens of Indian spiritual literature. It carries within itself eternal values and wisdom which could guide a lay person as well as a professional in all spheres of life.

Thiruvalluvar

Thirukkural captures the three-fold direction of life – Aram, or virtue; Porul, or wealth; and Inbam, or love.

The sage says that the life of a householder is superior to that of someone who opts for renunciation. He goes on to describe the duties and responsibilities to be discharged by a householder in great detail.

While describing the duties of kings, Thiruvalluvar touches upon the art of management and governance in very clear terms. This aspect has already been captured in some detail here.

Thirukkural speaks of matters of the heart with great elan. It gives love as much importance as ethical behaviour and righteous conduct. Feminists can take heart from the fact that it highlights the need for respect of women in unequivocal terms.

Thirukkural is an enduring example of the eternity of values, ethics and a humane approach to problem solving.

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/management-lessons-from-thirukkural

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/management-lessons-from-india)

 

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Most of the management events we get enticed to attend are very much alike. Somebody gets up and introduces the chair person and the speaker of the evening. Then, the chair person mumbles a few words designed to cheer up the speaker. The speaker of the evening then goes on to describe at great length what he thinks of the scandalous manner in which private sector managements behave or exposes the inefficient goings-on in the public sector.

The hapless soul tasked to chair the session makes sympathetic observations about the subject at hand. He makes brief notes in a studious manner. Later, he uses these to wrap up the proceedings as quickly as norms of society, dictates of behavioural sciences and standards of politeness would allow.

The speaker of the evening is invariably dressed in an impeccable corporate style. This is merely to mask the inner shivering he experiences at the prospect of facing a firing squad. Externally, he exudes confidence. Internally, he is all of a twitter. Unfortunately, many speakers are blissfully unaware of the technique of public speaking unwittingly perfected by Gussie Fink Nottle of P G Wodehouse fame – that of getting adequately braced with generous helpings of a strong tissue restorative prior to delivering a speech.

While he tries his best to convey some serious messages to the unsuspecting audience, he also attempts to induct some humour into the otherwise listless and sombre proceedings. This helps him to sugar-coat his dull message to the unsuspecting audience.

The audience upon which the speaker’s verbosity is unleashed listens in a state of polite resignation, often suppressing a yawn or two. With an eye on the wrist watch and a nose trying to detect the faint aroma of snacks and coffee being served outside the lecture hall, they bide their time, hoping for the ordeal to end soon.

From time to time, some members in the audience rise and ask carefully rehearsed questions, which get answered fully and satisfactorily by the speaker. Often, when a question gets asked in the pure spirit of proving to the assembled group that the questioner is smarter than the questioned, the latter either ignores him, or says haughtily that he can find him arguments but cannot find him brains. Or, occasionally, when the question is an easy one, he answers it.

When the discussion gets out of hand, and the speaker is found to be twiddling his thumbs, the chair person rushes in to conclude the affair, thereby bringing joy and relief all around.

The speaker is delighted that he has been rescued just in time and looks upon the chair much like a typhoon survivor would look upon the US marines when they arrive to rescue him from a disastrous situation.

The audience is happy that the trauma is finally over. They look forward to grabbing the vitamins laid outside the hall, so as to keep their body and souls together and also to overcome the state of depression induced by the presentation.

The organisers breathe easy, having saved their furniture and other items from any damage. Someone from their side quickly offers a vote of thanks to all and sundry, lest the speaker change his mind and go on to bore the audience any further.

A smoothly conducted management meeting is one of our civilization’s most delightful indoor games. When the meeting turns boisterous, the audience has more fun, but the speaker a good deal less.

The book presentation session at Madras Management Association recently was true to form in more ways than one. Save and except for the following:

– Being chaired by an exceptional business person who is practising the art of true social responsibility.

– The presentation of some portions of the book was more of an interactive session which never tended to be boisterous.

– There was a singular absence of any rehearsed questions from the audience.

The session had attracted around forty odd souls who suffered the trauma of listening to yours truly and others for about forty minutes or so. Perhaps Einstein’s Theory of Relativity kicked in and these forty minutes felt like forty hours to them, because when it was time for the Q and A, they pounced on an inwardly shuddering yours truly with much glee.

As luck would have it, much light was generated in the discussion that followed the brief presentation. The heat generated was perceptibly less; thus, no fire alarms went off in the lecture hall. The brainy coves assembled for the evening proved their mettle by coming up with astute observations and insightful comments. An enlightened soul in the audience even went on to enquire as to what precisely is meant by Spiritual Quotient, and what could be done to shore it up.

Leadership styles got discussed. Tips on managing Lion Bosses got shared. Dignity of women at workplace came in for a mention. The delicate art of dishing out selective favours to those who really deserve support was brooded upon. Several other topics of contemporary interest were discussed, including the recent boardroom battles which played out at Infosys and at Tata House.

One is grateful to Madras Management Association for having provided this opportunity to share one’s thoughts with their brainy members and honourable invitees.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/a-tale-of-two-countries-and-a-book-launch)

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ethics and values

We do not necessarily need a degree from Harvard to realize the difference between right and wrong. The Moral Compass within us is capable of telling us if we are on the right path.

Human values form the inner core of our personalities. These keep nudging us to be good human beings.

If ‘Values’ are the cause, ‘Ethics’ are the effect. If our value system is in place, our outward behaviour and conduct shall be ethical. Same is true of organizations, where the underlying culture determines the response of its key managers to tough business situations.

A company which believes in human values would handle a separation differently. When ramping down a business, good performers could get helped to secure career opportunities elsewhere. A star performer who has made up her mind to leave would get treated with great respect, thereby making her a valuable brand ambassador for the company.

In the Mahabharata, this is how Yudhishtira responds to queries by Yaksha:

Yaksha:

Which enemy of man cannot be conquered?

                  What is man’s persistent frailty?

                  Which man can be called moral?

Yudhishtira:

Anger is the unconquered enemy of man.

                  Greed is the persistent frailty.

                  That man is moral who seeks the good of all.

Values and ethics happen to be a crucial component of our Spiritual Quotient.

(Source: The Mahabharata of Vyasa, Transcreation by P Lal)

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, which covers more than hundred topics of interest to managers of all hues, shapes and sizes)

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Respected Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some of you might be twiddling your fingers these days, trying to figure out exactly what is happening, why things have come to such a pass, and if there is some way you could pitch in to resolve the Tata-Mistry issue.

I do believe there is a way you can make a difference. You can do so by taking a stand which would make you look back at your decision in the future with a feeling of glowing satisfaction and contentment.

Allow me to share some of my own thoughts on the subject. I write with all humility at my command. I write this as a lesser mortal who is not privy to the power conflicts at the top levels of the Tata group. I write this as a common man, and also as an ex-employee of one of the companies of the group, namely Tata International.

Ratan Tata

Forced separation only under grave provocation

The rather uncharacteristic manner in which Cyrus Mistry has been shown the door by Tatas some time back only goes on to establish a truth – that you all support an elephant which has not only learnt to dance but also knows how to be nimble-footed when the situation so demands. Step on the wrong toes and the message is loud and clear. Core values are not negotiable. Cross that invisible line at your own risk and peril. Provoke the elephant in a wrong way and face the music.

Way back in 1993, Russi Mody also underwent the experience of a forced separation.

There are many other instances which one can go on quoting, but the moot point remains that those entertain individual ambitions and start nudging the group against its core values invariably get ejected from the pilot’s cockpit.

Even at lower levels, the old perception that Tatas work like a massive bureaucracy and a job with them is for one’s life time is altogether wrong. I have myself been a witness to some such cases, where managers who had either performed very poorly, or offered speed money, or otherwise acted in bad faith, were clearly told to look for greener pastures elsewhere.

In Tata we trust

You are well aware that the brand equity that the group enjoys is as much about product quality as it is about trust and faith which stakeholders of all hues, sizes and shapes repose in its operations.

Tatas happen to support trusts which are some of the oldest charitable institutions in India. The group has pioneered modern ideas of secular, social services-oriented philanthropy.

It is not easy to name another business empire which has invested in the social sectors even when no law ever mandated it. Or, one which has invested in areas totally unrelated to the core business activities of the group. Iconic institutions like the Indian Institute of Science, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the National Center for Performing Arts are but some of the examples which spring to one’s mind.

A habit of going beyond the mandate

tata-crest

It may also not be possible for us to locate another business house which has gone out of its way to incur a liability out of a sheer sense of decency even when not having a formal agreement to that effect.
In one of his scintillating articles, Arun Maira, ex-member of the Indian Planning Commission and an ex-Tata senior, recounts a 1946 meeting between the KraussMaffei board and J R D Tata and Sumant Moolgaokar on the platform of the bombed out Munich station. In those times, Indian companies had no way of entering into any agreement with German companies. The Germans requested Tatas to take their best technicians and their families to India, who were starving without work in Germany. So, Tatas learnt metal-working from the best of the best.

He says that many years later, when India had become independent, the German company’s headquarters received a letter from Tatas, asking how much to pay for the technology they had provided to Tatas. That letter showed the true spirit of the group – one honours one’s debt, even when it is not legally binding, and even when it is not demanded of one.

You may also recall the Tata Finance fiasco in 2001, when a letter alleging some wrongdoings at the company reached the desks of several Tata seniors. Tata Sons could have well adhered to admitting its limited legal liabilities, but Ratan Tata took a courageous and humane view to publicly declare that interests of every small investor shall be protected.

In his brilliant book, Six Lenses, R Gopalakrishnan, cites several examples from the Tata history to sketch out the kind of culture the group has.

You are well aware that much of the goodwill enjoyed by the group is because of the perception that, as a business house, it has always tried to put into practice the Zoroastrianism principles of Humata (Good Thoughts), Hukhta (Good Words) and Hvarshta (Good Deeds).

A unique vision and the spirit of enterprise

jamsetji-tata

Elsewhere, R M Lala speaks of the spirit of enterprise by quoting the instance when Sir Jamsetji N. Tata traveled all the way to Pittsburgh in USA to realize his dream of building a steel plant in India. In 1901, he met Julian Kennedy, the foremost steel expert, who warned him that even the preliminary investigation could cost a fortune and there was no guarantee of any returns. He suggested that survey of the raw materials be made by Charles Page Perin, the best geologist in America.

In New York, Jamsetji went to Perin’s office who was impressed by the passion and the sincerity of the aging entrepreneur. In April 1903, his partner, C. W. Weld, came over to India to kick-start the process of setting up a steel foundry. Even though Jamsetji passed away in 1904, his vision was brought to fruition and the first ingot of steel rolled out of the Sakchi plant during 1912. World War I broke out soon after and Britain found that the only source of steel for the war effort East of Suez was in India.

Within two months of the War ending, the Viceroy came to the Steel Works at Sakchi, and rechristened it Jamshedpur.

Many of you may believe that the Tatas can grow faster by being more aggressive in existing as well as in green field verticals. But you can not miss the point that tremendous progress has been made already, and never by compromising on the core ethics and values the group companies adhere to. Running the same businesses without this core would be like having living organisms sans their souls.

Succession and moments of mental aberration

Succession in a complex organization which is 148 years old is often a delicate issue.

jrd-tata

JRD is reported to have often joked that the Tata Sons board made him chairman in a moment of mental aberration. While he was anointed thus in 1938, his ascendance was never a cake walk. He took over the baton of the group from his second cousin Nowroji Saklatwala.

To quote Jehangir Pocha:

Inwardly, he was none too pleased with Shapoorji’s “intrusion” into Tatas. He is said to have got even more infuriated when Shapoorji proceeded to buy further stakes in Tata Sons from his siblings, Sylla and Darab Tata. This event has now come back to haunt the group.

JRD himself never spoke publicly about Shapoorji, Darab or Sylla, as was the norm in the days when grace mattered and linen was never washed in public. But he did say in his later years that Shapoorji took advantage of people who were “weak-willed and credulous”.

He surrounded himself with exceptional managers and threw the somnolent group into expansion mode. Tata Chemicals was incorporated in 1939 and became India’s first soda-ash supplier under Darbari Seth. Tata Motors was established in 1945 and nurtured by Sumant Moolgaokar. Tata Steel grew under Homi, and then, Russi Mody. JRD himself was the steward of Air India’s growth, even after its nationalisation in 1953. Naval Tata led the Tata electric companies, and the group’s textile and oil mills.

Fast-forward to 1991, when Ratan Tata took over the reins of the house of Tatas. He then faced the challenge of managing the then existing power structure within the group to be able to assert himself.ratan_tata

Of de-globalization and corporate governance

On the global stage, these are challenging times for many of the group’s business verticals. Brexit and the recent US elections are events which need great attention. Post-2008, the world appears to have entered into a phase of de-globalization. Protectionist barriers are likely to get higher. Right-wing enthusiasts world over are basking in the perceived glory of their resurgence on the global stage. The Mistry fiasco is a distraction the group can surely do without.

The current feud does throw up several serious challenges. One is that of achieving managerial excellence within the framework of ownership by a particular family – something that Tatas have always managed to do so very well. Another is that of articulating the invisible authority lines between owners and professionals. Both these factors need strategic thought from persons of such eminence as your goodselves.

Yet another issue pertains to managing the employees and the business ecosystems as long as the turbulence persists.

Support a business with its soul intact

Tata logo

Allow yours truly to urge upon all of you to think deeply on the issues that the group faces at this time. Go back to your conscience and check if you view your relationship with any of the Tata companies purely through a materialistic lens, or through a lens which also incorporates the kind of values the group stands for.

You are well aware that in many areas of management, Tatas have set the bar very high. Giving back to society. Business strategy. Employee welfare. Women empowerment. Avoiding the bribe traps. Avoiding, but never evading, taxes. Going beyond the mandate.

One would hope that persons of your eminence would choose not to wash dirty linen in public and resolve your differences in a spirit of mutual accommodation. That you shall respect your custodianship role and live it. That you shall conduct yourself in a manner which would justify the trust and faith reposed in you not only by the group but also by the shareholders of the company you happen to be associated with.

That you shall subdue your ego and care for the long term bigger picture. That if your value systems happen to be out of sync with those of the Tata group, you shall quietly withdraw from the eminent position you enjoy on the board of any of the group companies. That, hopefully, you shall support Ratan Tata and his team to protect their turf.

If the differences between you continue to fester, the brand equity of the group might take a short-term hit. However, one has no doubt that, given your support, it shall scale greater heights in the years to come.

One wishes Ratan Tata the best of deliberations to find a perfect professional to steer the group in the coming decades.

(Further reading:
Article by Mr Arun Maira
http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/GOx9Ym0MSLSGwbHb6WSvsO/The-Tatas-and-a-matter-of-trust.html
Article by Mr R M Lala
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/in-the-company-of-men-of-steel/article1649373.ece
Book by Mr R Gopalakrishnan (www.themindworks.me)
Six Lenses, ISBN 978-81-291-3587-2)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/bidding-an-adieu-to-mr-ratan-tata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/getting-a-moral-compass-would-be-a-sound-business-strategy-for-india-inc)

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Hapless parents who are always rushing from pillar to post to make the two ends meet carry a lovely responsibility on their tender shoulders – that of bringing up kids.

Families have shrunk. Technology has sneaked into the family space. Most parents themselves have one sibling each, and they also happen to be equally busy chasing their own dreams. The desire to enjoy independence from parents has led to the current trend of singular families. Kids no longer have the luxury of curling up in bed with the family seniors and listening to juicy stories and fables from the distant past.

kids-internet-1

Often, hassled parents, already bearing the guilt of not being able to spend enough quality time with their kids, get into a conflict with kids over such inane matters as the choice of their friends, the dress they wish to wear in their free time, and the shows they insist on watching on a TV or on an iPad. Arbitration facilities provided by family seniors in the past have all but vanished.

Fed by cartoon or game characters which shoot to kill, the kids gradually start believing themselves to be invincible. They take violence and physical intimidation against others to be a normal behaviour. The resultant chaos in the society is for all of us to see and brood upon.

kids tom and jerry

Pick up an old soft movie like The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins, and present day kids could be forgiven for looking at these askance. Put on an animation movie and you find an immediate arousal of interest.

Minimizing Screen Time, Maximizing Values

For hapless parents, there are two basic challenges. One, that of minimizing Screen Time, weaning away kids from gadgets and involving them in outdoor activities. Two, that of imparting them the values which would last them a life time.

No meal can be consumed unless a cartoon movie is not playing on the iPad perched on the dining table. The threat of changing the WiFi password alone works to bring about a semblance of discipline in the house.

kids-chhota-bheem

Gone are the days when family seniors used to control all the entertainment appliances in the house. Now the kids’ wish and expertise rules supreme. At schools, gone are the days of detention and punishment. In quite a few cases, teachers get the flak for not treating the kids right.

One does not resent the kids their present state. One merely wants them to be better prepared to face the harsh realities of life, as and when they need to forgo the sheltered lifestyle they take for granted. In some cases, stay in a hostel might help. In others, a special course to use the right side of the brain might help.

kids-brighter_minds

Perhaps it is time to consciously revert back to the joint family system, wherever feasible. Perhaps it is time to be soft as well as stern while dealing with kids. Perhaps it makes sense for them to get exposed to some sort of deprivation in life. A walk through a slum. Stories of kids who do not get to attend school. Gifting toys to poor children.

The corporate world has already woken up to the need of a woman employee to spend more quality time with her kids. Maternity leaves are getting extended. Paternity leaves are already a norm in the advanced countries. More options centered around flexible hours are being offered. Yet, much more can and needs to be done.

kids-panchtantra

In all cases, an outdoor sports activity helps. An addiction to reading books also helps. Even on internet, there is no dearth of such offerings as Aesop’s Fables and the Panchatantra.

What is essential is a strong connection with the real world and an exposure to the slice of virtual world which is steeped in ethics, morals and values.

(Notes:

  1. All illustrations are courtesy the world wide web.
  2. Brighter Minds is an educational initiative to equip every child with tools and methods to enhance cognitive functioning for achieving personal excellence, and instill confidence in oneself)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/on-the-children-by-khalil-gibran

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/kids-with-a-western-mind-and-an-eastern-heart

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/goofy-kids-p-g-wodehouse-and-some-spiritual-tenets)

 

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There are indeed times when we run into CEOs whose heads are screwed on just right. They are passionate about what they do. Their heart is in the right place, beating at a rhythm which matches that of the people and the environment. Their sense of ethics is in harmony with their value system which is governed by respect for the society at large. In terms of an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid, they can be spotted in the vicinity of the slot at 9,9,9.X Y Z upgraded

When it comes to achieving results, they do not pull their punches. Their bosses never cease to be amazed by their effectiveness and efficiency. The competition is in awe of many of them and cannot really be blamed for making repeated attempts to poach them. They do not live from one quarter to the next quarter. Their thinking is strategic. Their vision is far-sighted.

This is not to say that they do not fail. In fact, they are quick to learn from their failures and are good at using those as stepping-stones to future successes. They also refuse to become complacent after achieving a spectacular success. They realize which elements contributed to a particular success and know what could not be replicated in future. Setting new goal posts for themselves and for their team comes naturally to them.

They go out of their way to help a person in distress. They would defend their people much like a tigress would protect her cubs. When down-sizing is the target, key players could get supported by out-placement initiatives.

The real workers in their team simply adore them. The shirkers, if they manage to stick around, despise them. High achievers look up to them for inspiration and direction. Mediocre ones respect and obey them. The good-for-nothing fellows have no place in their teams.

They are invariably fair and transparent in their dealings with not only their own people but also with other stakeholders in business. Customers find their product costs to be open and agree on realistic prices. Suppliers are expected to do the same, thereby ensuring margins which are fair and sustainable. Financiers and auditors find it delightful to deal with them. Investors repose their faith in the organizations they happen to be associated with.

With CEOs like them around, corporate governance never takes a back seat. Exceeding the boundaries set by rules and regulations comes naturally to their teams. Organizations headed by them do not wait for a legal imposition in the realm of Corporate Social Responsibility. They seize the initiative of their own, so the community gets benefited. With no scams in sight, and with open and fair dealings with customers, the brand equity of their organizations inevitably soars.

They happen to be people who practice equanimity. They are at peace with themselves. They enjoy inner harmony and tranquility and radiate it to those who happen to be in their circle of influence. A team member who enters their office with suicidal thoughts could often be seen returning with a chuckle on her face, batteries all charged up.

Succession planning comes naturally to them. Their teams comprise several members who would be following in their footsteps and aping their style of functioning. These are the Incumbent Chiefs, who would fit in at such spots as 5,5,5 and 7,7,7. When CEOs of this genre decide to move on to greener pastures, one of them is ready to fit into their shoes and run the enterprise based on a culture which is not easy to replicate.SQ

Such CEOs rank high in terms of not only their Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Quotient but also their Spiritual Quotient.

Managements of all hues are always on the lookout for CEOs of this kind. Head hunters specialize in ferreting out such CEOs and nudging them into the employment market. Hefty pay packets might not attract them; a corporate value system steeped in equality, fairness and openness just might.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/ceos-who-are-arsonist-achievers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-missionary-zealot-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/ceos-who-happen-to-be-crazy-conformists

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/the-armchair-revolutionary-ceos)

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