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Posts Tagged ‘J R D Tata’

Much like a proficient swimmer participating in a competition, a smart CEO needs to operate in two  diametrically opposite styles at the same time – one of attachment and another of detachment. She needs to be an enthusiastic participant in the operations and swim along with the current. Often, she also needs to sit back on the banks of the river, keenly observe the direction in which she is headed and make a detached and objective assessment of the situation. There is thus an inherent duality embedded in her role. Her role as a passionate participant must always embrace that of the intellectual spectator. The “who” and “why” of her concerns should constantly enfold the “what” and “how” of our methods.

With maturity, a person gains the ability to detach from passionate participation in the operations and do a pitiless analysis of the overall shape and working of the system. Successful CEOs know that after all the analysis is done, they still have to throw themselves back into the mix. One may call this art a hybrid style of functioning.

Detachment in Action

A sense of detachment, as brought out by Bhagavad Gita, is not about one losing the sight of the objective sought to be achieved. Nor does it recommend a defeatist attitude in one’s life and career. Rather, it is about handling successes and failures in a balanced manner. Smart leaders, who have achieved a spectacular success, do not become complacent. They remain humble. They determine the critical success factors and store these at the back of their minds, ready to be recalled when necessary. When faced with dire failures, they shoulder the blame, get requisite feedback and take steps to ensure the failure gets avoided the next time round. If they lose interest for some time, they bounce back with renewed enthusiasm and work towards delivering results. In other words, detachment helps one to be more objective.

Peter Drucker, when he dished out advice to CEOs, invariably acted as a dispassionate observer. He was critical but fair, assisting some of the best brains in the American corporate world in their crucial jobs of scaling up huge businesses so that their vastness became an asset rather than a liability. He refrained from developing a sense of attachment towards any of the CEOs he interacted with and maintained a critical detachment. He studied and commented upon the latest key issues without selling universal truths to his clients, followers and managers everywhere. This was one of his key qualities which added to the greatness of his thoughts.

If one were to go through the history of the Apollo series of missions launched by the National Aeronautical Space Agency of USA during the 1960s and 1970s, one would be struck by the kind of tenacity and equipoise demonstrated by the participating astronauts. Despite losing several of their colleagues in accidents, they remained committed to the overall goal, delivering some spectacular results for our scientists and technocrats to work upon. The same trend continues till date. Airspace disasters notwithstanding, we keep sending missions to Mars and to Sun. The quest of humanity to explore our universe continues unabated.

Inner Resilience and Equanimity

Attaining a state of detachment gets facilitated if a professional were to improve upon her levels of Inner Resilience and practice Equanimity. This is what Bhagavad Gita says in this context.

योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय |
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते || 2.48||

Be steadfast in the performance of your duty, O Arjun, abandoning attachment to success and failure. Such equanimity is called Yoga.

Professionals need to know not only what is to be done, but also how it has to be done. Lord Krishna does not fail them. He recommends an ‘evenness of mind’, the tranquility of inner composure in handling all the pairs of opposites in their careers and lives – success and failure, praise and reprimand, hiring and firing, sprees of expansion and down-sizing, products and services which are at opposite ends of their life cycles, mergers and demergers, favourable and unfavourable circumstances, and the like. This, indeed, is held to be the real ‘Yoga’.

In the process, we need to give up our false expectations, wrong imaginations, daydreams about the fruits of our actions, anxieties for results, resistance to change, and fears about future events which are still in the womb of the universal force called Time.

The traits of a Super Leader

Hers is a balanced personality, free of unreasonable desires which pose the danger of her losing sight of her sense of righteousness. She does not have a binding attachment with her emotions. Nor does she have a jealous preference for her pet ideas or for her pet people. She scoffs at any signs of nepotism. She encourages her team members to be nay-sayers, so voices of dissent could be heard and judiciously dealt with. She radiates positivity all around her. She is committed to the organization’s goals and looks after her team members much like a lioness would protect her cubs.

Such a person of steady wisdom is described in Bhagavad Gita as a Stitha-Prajna. Consider the following:

दु:खेष्वनुद्विग्नमना: सुखेषु विगतस्पृह: |
वीतरागभयक्रोध: स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते || 2.56||

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

Two concerns may arise here. One, could there really be persons who could be held to have all these qualities? Two, is it really possible for one to be free of one’s basket of desires and one’s ego?

In his book ‘Beyond the Last Blue Mountain’, R M Lala quotes the case of Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tata group of companies. It was he who gave the group a unique position in India. In his later years, he did not ask ‘What enterprise is the most profitable?’ but, ‘What does the nation need?’ Since the answer in his times was steel, hydro-electric power or an institute of science, he made his best efforts to fulfill that need.

He is reported to have once said something very basic:

We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity.’

Alfred Sloan is reported to have once remarked, ‘What is good for General Motors is good for America.’ J R D Tata always thought the other way round. ‘What is good for India is good for Tatas.’

Theirs is only one example of a business house which is clear in its goals and in its priorities. Several others could be quoted in the current context, like N R Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys.

Getting rid of desires and ego is no cakewalk. A CEO may introspect and fine tune her desires so the same are aligned with the values of the organization she works for. In the process, her personal desires take a back seat. Likewise, getting rid of one’s ego completely has a flip side. One could end up becoming a doormat and getting taken advantage of by all and sundry. Arguably, her wisdom and intuition can help her to retain her individuality even while letting go of the ego. Ask any CEO who has ever worked in a single-owner driven company, and she would attest to the basic principle of leaving the ego at the office gate itself!

Professionals who remain undistracted by transient entrapments have the ability to be rational and calm. They are steadfast in reaching their goals and go on to make successful business leaders.

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Surviving in the Corporate Jungle
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This is in continuation of an earlier post, providing a short introduction to a book by yours truly. The Portugese version of the book 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.’

Why the reference to a jungle?

One, it is fashionable these days to talk about environment and sustainability. Two, in many ways, the type of organizations we work in and the kind of people we meet there, many parallels can be drawn.

I believe there are three kinds of organizations: the Circus kind, the Zoo kind and the Jungle kind.

Whatever the kind you work for, you get to see Lion King bosses who are the lords and masters of all they survey. Mentors who keep an eye on the quality of work that you do, much like a giraffe would.

Colleagues who are like enchanting deers, always willing to support you. Subordinates who are snakes in the grass, waiting for an opportunity to back-stab you. Customers who are as prickly as a porcupine. Suppliers who are as cunning as a fox.

Fed up with a company? Change over to another one. You would still find people there with similar traits. Only the names and the faces would change. In other words, there is no escaping the jungle!

Some bouquets

Those who deserve bouquets for what they have unwittingly contributed towards the conception as well as the delivery of this book:

My friends, philosophers and guides: They continued to egg me on to write a book of this kind – late Prof. S. P. Singh, Ashok Kalra, S. P. Krishnamurthy, Vipin Dewan, C. S. Dwivedi, Prof. R. P. Raya, and a few others.

Thought leaders, like Peter F. Drucker, Philip Kotler, J. R. D. Tata, C. Northcote Parkinson, Laurence J. Peter, Ratan Tata, Sharu Rangnekar, Stephen R. Covey and many others.

Hapless souls who have undergone the trauma of going through and commenting upon the rough portions of this book: Miguel Dias, Founder, CEO World, Jose Antonio de Sousa, President & CEO, Liberty Seguros, Jack Jacoby, Executive Chairman, Jacoby Consulting Group Pty Ltd, and a few others.

Those who have worked so very hard on the illustrations – thereby making the book a wee bit livelier.

Vida Economica, the publishers, who showed the courage to pick up a whacky manuscript from an unknown first-time author.

Quite a few others who have burnt the midnight oil, acted as proficient midwives and taken me through the labour pains of the editing and publishing process, ensuring that the baby got delivered.

The souls which play the role of my immediate family members in this life, without whose support this book would not have seen the light of the day.

Special thanks are due to my soul-mate and the very young ones, without whose support the book could have been finished in half the time it actually took to write.

Few brickbats

If any brickbats are to be hurled, those have to be unerringly directed at the author of the book. However, before flexing your muscles, please be so kind as to check if he is covered for such exigencies by any insurance policy issued by Liberty Seguros.

You can buy the book here.

(Related Post:
https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/the-book-como-sobreviver-na-selva-empresarial-guia-pratico)

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In a highly competitive and inter-connected world, how can organizations keep pace with the ever-evolving business environment? How can business leaders and CEOs achieve results, when faced with disruptive technologies which keep changing the way the business works?

An alternative paradigm for management processes can perhaps help. This paradigm comprises four aspects which underlie all aspects of management, as it is understood, taught and practiced by working as well as by aspiring managers.

The four aspects of Integral Management, drawn from Sri Aurobindo’s writings, are: Perfection, Power, Harmony and Wisdom. Perfection in whatever an organization plans and does. The Power that a company uses to achieve its goals. The Harmony which is required to enable the achievement of goals. Above all, the Wisdom which goes into running a business enterprise in a sustainable fashion.jrd-tata

Smart managers always aim for Perfection. It is said that Mr. R. M. Lala, an editor, writer and publisher of repute, once commented to Mr. J. R. D. Tata that the latter believed in excellence. The great man is said to have retorted thus: “Not excellence. Perfection. You aim for Perfection, you will attain excellence. If you aim for excellence, you will go lower.”

Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research (SACAR), a NGO devoted to disseminating the thoughts and vision of the well-renowned seer of India, recently held a day-long seminar on various aspects of managerial perfection. The seminar was held at Pondicherry in India.

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Some of the key issues deliberated upon at the seminar

Making ‘Make in India’ a success needs a change in the attitudes of those who practice the art of management. The attitude of compromise needs to be shunned in all spheres of life. A strong sense of self-belief is a pre-requisite.IMG_4242 Resized

Imperfection leads to higher stress. When faced with a challenge, ‘Root Cause Analysis’ often leads to a state of perfection being achieved. Attention to detail alone helps. Pushing down complexity is yet another way to realize our goal of perfection.

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Perfection is a dynamic concept. It is a moving goal. Even 99.9% is not good enough. Factors which help a leader in her journey towards perfection are:
o Unquenchable thirst, constant endeavour
o Catering to revised customer expectations
o Vision to reach there
o Perfect planning
o Obedience
o Constant supervision and vigilance
o Perfect balance and enduranceIMG_4254 Resized

Decision making can be made more perfect by supplementing rational thinking with intuition. The higher the level of uncertainty, the greater the role that intuition can play. Intuitive faculties can be developed by means of:
o Listening better
o Reflecting on a decision before implementing
o Examining your beliefs
o Communicating to, and consulting, others
o Learning to recognize and interpret your emotions
o Creating the right learning environment; allow failures
o Using situational assessments and case studies

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Leadership styles can be perfected by following some concurrent processes:
o Leading oneself first – introspection, self-improvement, practicing gratitude, shouldering      responsibility, improving quality of action and self-discipline; self-image plays a crucial role
o Leading others – by example
o Delivering results
o Grooming leadersDSC_0114 Resized

A sound HR philosophy is the essence of Perfection, which is an inner state of living. The principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are useful in crafting innovative HR policies. Employees at all levels deserve an operational freedom which needs to be balanced with a sense of collective responsibility.DSC_0121 Resized

Some real-life examples which were touched upon

The following were some of the real-life examples which came up for discussion at the seminar:
• Evolution of manufacturing excellence across the world, from the first World War onwards
• Products of Apple and the no-nonsense attitude of Steve Jobs
• The SAS turnaround by Jan Carlzon; lessons from ‘Moments of Truth’
• Nestle India’s delayed decision to withdraw Maggi noodles from the shelves
• Recall of more than 2 million cars by Honda due to faulty air bags

The seminar, entitled ‘In Pursuit of Managerial Perfection’, drew an enthusiastic response from business managers, scholars and students alike. It was addressed by Dr. Ananda Reddy, Director of SACAR, Mr. R. Mananathan, Chairman and MD, Manatec group of companies, Prof R. P. Raya, Dean, School of Management, Pondicherry University, Prof. Jaisree Anand, Founder LearnMore India Consultant, Mr. Ganesh Babu, Founder and CEO Winning Minds, Prof. Kisholoy Gupta, Senior HR Professional and yours truly – a heady mix of management educators, lifestyle coaches, business thinkers and influencers.

Dr Shruti Bidwaikar, Assistant Director, SACAR, summed up the proceedings of the day. Dr Arvind Gupta, Assistant Director, Directorate of Distance Education, Pondicherry University, advised the participants to imbibe the day’s learning in an appropriate manner while facing challenges in life.

SACAR proposes to organize a series of follow-up seminars touching upon the three other pillars of Integral Management, viz., Harmony, Power and Wisdom.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-inner-approach-to-leadership-and-management-note-on-a-seminar)

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MANAGEMENT

Unlike a “should” guy who is a philosopher, and a “would” guy who is a politician, a good manager is a “could” guy. He is aware of the constraints of resources at his disposal, and get things done accordingly.

He is the first one to come in and the last one to go from office. No job is too small for him; he is a true hands-on guy, but develops his team by delegation.

He defines and respects the invisible boundary of professional distance between himself and his key team players. When his team members are attacked, he behaves like a lioness out to protect her cubs. His team just loves him!

MARKETINGMARKETING

An ever-changing discipline, though surely not the only one. When conceived and described by Philip Kotler, it consisted of the famous 4 Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. With due respects to the great man, one may safely add one more P – Password (used for viral marketing).

With the advent of internet has come a virtual democracy in information. Changes in technology have brought in a new way the customers and brands interact. Marketing has undergone a sea change and will continue to do so in future as well, what with social re-engineering leading to a greater degree of inclusion in the economy, with hordes of new customers from a so-far underprivileged social milieu joining the market. Persons with access to internet now research the brands before making a decision. They are increasingly welcoming fresh content rather than repetitive ads.

Take note of the mini packs of biscuits, noodles and other consumer items being marketed at price points of Rs. 5 and below. Thirty years back, Indians had to wait for years to get to ride their own “Hamara Bajaj”. On the car front, there were hardly three suppliers in the fray then. Now, we see global brands wooing the customer and competing cheek and jowl for a slice of the market pie.

The Customer has now become a more empowered king!

MEETINGS

Meetings to decide strategic issues are best held off campus, though not necessarily in exotic locales.

Meetings to review operations are best kept short, held in the standing mode, at regular intervals (like TV news) without prior intimation, kept crisp by ruthlessly disallowing inter-departmental issues getting discussed while all others gape in horror and ignorance, ending much before the deadline and minutes being circulated by the end of the day with clear responsibilities defined in respect of targets to be met and respective deadlines.

It is generally accepted that the probability of a meeting taking place is inversely proportional to the number of participants.

Parkinson’s Law of Meetings states that “To a certain degree, the time spent in a meeting on an item is inversely proportional to its value”.

MEDIOCRITY vs. EXCELLENCE vs. PERFECTION

Always aim for perfection! It is said that Mr. R. M. Lala, an editor, writer and publisher of repute, once commented to Mr. J. R. D. Tata that the latter believed in excellence. The great man is said to have retorted thus: “Not excellence. Perfection. You aim for perfection, you will attain excellence. If you aim for excellence, you will go lower.”

Rabindranath Tagore, in his Gitanjali, captures the same concept thus: “Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection”. Even though “perfection” may not be attainable in reality, what matters is the “tireless striving”, which could well prove to be a reward in itself. “Perfection”, like happiness, need not be a station one arrives at, but a mode of travel, making the journey interesting and worthwhile.MICROMANAGING

To improve our personal capacity utilization, our basic struggle needs to be attitudinal – to adopt a Culture of Perfection and to give up the Culture of Mediocrity.  Our collective chalta hai attitude is passé.

MICROMANAGING

A sure way of becoming a liability for your team and also for your employers is to micromanage – getting into the nitty-gritty of each and every aspect of the task at hand. Learn to delegate and allow your team members to make mistakes. Demand results, but develop your people in the long run.

MISTAKES, HANDLING OF

As an individual, say sorry. Say it openly. Add a dash of humor and laugh at yourself publically. Avoid a buck passing posture. Do a root cause analysis. Suggest and work on a solution to rectify the mistake. Try to avoid a recurrence.

As a corporate, get your PR to handle the issue well. Take demonstrable steps to set the record straight. During June 2011, Toyota globally recalled as many as 1,06,000 vehicles, offering to replace front right hand shaft in selected vehicles. During 2007, Mattel announced a recall of over 19 million toys fearing that the toys had powerful magnets which could come loose and be swallowed by infants. Their brand recall value only shot up.

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