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Posts Tagged ‘Management’

The year 2020 is turning out to be an extraordinary challenge for individuals, families and businesses. Coronavirus has spread several other viruses – those of fear, uncertainty, hunger, jobs, lack of physical interactions in education as well as in life, and the like.

The pandemic has left traditional business models in a shambles. Supply chains have got disrupted. Businesses have shut shops. Industries with some core strengths have diversified into newer markets and products. The first priority happens to be that of servicing the critical requirements of customers while shielding the employees to the extent possible.

Economies the world over have taken a severe beating. For a vast majority, sources of income have simply vanished overnight. The virus has exposed, yet again, the fault-lines in our health, social and economic infrastructure.

The Innate Goodness in Humanity

Many amongst us have already turned cynical towards a proposition of this kind and believe that human beings are selfish. Being bombarded relentlessly by the propaganda mills run by shameless politicians, a TRP-chasing media and movie directors who keep churning out dark and depressing flicks, we often end up taking a jaundiced view of people and events around us.

Rutger Bregman, the popular Dutch historian, in his book Humankind, argues otherwise. He points out that there is a spontaneous coming together of people immediately after any natural disaster. He says that ‘cooperation has been more important in our evolution as a species than competition. What we assume in other people is what we get.’

Walter Scheidel, in his book, The Great Leveler, argues that throughout human history, the following four kinds of disasters have led to economic equality: wars, revolutions, pandemic and state collapse. Each of these, he proposes, results in excess mortality, thereby creating a shortage of working hands and, as a consequence, a general rise in incomes.

A ‘X’ Shaped Recovery?!

However, the proposition is arguable. Take the case of the pandemic stalking us at present. It is true that it strikes all and sundry. But to say that the loss of livelihoods and economic hardships faced is the same across different income levels and business verticals would be wrong. Social biases, disparity in access to quality education, health and networking and a non-level playing field for small businesses to cash in on newer opportunities in the environment – all these play spoilsports. With each disaster faced by humanity, the inbuilt inequalities and fault lines only end up getting reinforced. The plight of the millions of Indian migrant labourers who travelled long distances on foot to reach their homes during April and June 2020 cannot be erased from our collective memory easily.

Credit Suisse economist Neelkanth Mishra speaks of four classes in the society: government, wage earners, informal enterprises and formal firms. For 2020-21, he has attempted to examine which group bears how much of the overall GDP loss. In these computations, 50% of loss is borne by the government, 25% by the wage earners and 10% each by informal and formal firms. Looking beyond 2020-21, a growth slowdown will be unequally distributed between these groups.

Recovery in the economy would not be as rapid as the slowdown has been. From the computation done by Mishra, it appears that it would neither be a ‘V’ or a ‘W’ shaped one. Perhaps, a ‘X’ shaped recovery is in the offing.

A Silver Lining in the Corona Virus Cloud

Broad sweeping generalizations of a situation could also hide some silver linings in an otherwise gloomy-looking cloud. According to a study done by Badri Narayan, a social historian and cultural anthropologist and, Director, GB Pant Social Science Institute, major challenges also tend to bring out the innate goodness in human beings.

He has interviewed 215 quarantined rural migrants in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The respondents were from a diverse set of castes like dalits, other backward classes and upper castes.

By way of a conclusion, he states that ‘Caste is deeply ingrained in our social system….. but an emergency like a pandemic gives jolts and shocks to it.’

In other words, when it comes to handling overwhelming challenges, caste considerations normally take a back seat. This indicates a possibility of the pandemic facilitating better social unity and cohesion, an idea which deserves to be explored further. This proposition fits in well with the views of Rutger Bregman.

The underlying need is to build resilience and inclusivity across the vast socio-economic spectrum of our society. Our politicos, economists and social activists appear to be missing a road map to counter a strategic challenge of this kind.

(Part 4 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership) 

(Inputs from Prof G P Rao are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Image courtesy https://medium.com/@brca.iitdelhi/social-harmony-e7cbacc76287)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-virus-and-an-early-onset-of-industrial-revolution-4-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/corona-virus-leadership-traits-and-human-values

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/corona-virus-some-lessons-from-bhagavad-gita)

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In Part 2 of this series of thoughts on the challenges posed by the pandemic to business leaders, we had noticed that the same are being met by:

  • Reposing one’s faith in the basic goodness of human beings,
  • Responding to fresh challenges in a creative and innovative manner,
  • Adopting a sunnier disposition,
  • Preparing for contingencies in advance, and
  • Reconfiguring operations with due respect to nature and mother earth.

One no longer has the luxury of treating these traits as being theoretical constructs. Leadership is always context-specific and top managements need to evaluate the seniors on the traits listed here. These are the transformative professionals in the organization who need to be brought into critical roles without delay.

Much like a befuddled Arjuna twiddling his thumbs at the beginning of Bhagavad Gita who is made to realize his true path of righteousness towards the end of this unique Manual of Motivation, the pandemic is telling leaders to wake up to a new reality and get their act right.

Lord Krishna does not directly refer to human values; instead, he places a premium on one following the path of righteousness, a concept which is all-encompassing. He exhorts us to work in a detached manner, to focus on our efforts and be clear that results are not in our control. He speaks of the virtues of higher resilience, equanimity and the extent of control we exercise over our desires. All these enable us to enjoy an inner sense of peace and joy. He also speaks of human behavior being governed by the mix of three ‘gunas’: Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.

The qualities mentioned in Bhagavad Gita mostly match with the traits mentioned earlier. Businesses and traders downing their shutters and moving on to totally different activities surely have owners who are learning the art of detachment the hard way. Many have expanded their footprints, revealing their nerves of chilled steel and reflecting a high degree of resilience. Seeking inner peace and equanimity by adopting some meditative practices and doing yoga is helping professionals to switch over to a work-from-home mode, despite distractions caused by family matters. All these have made leaders discard their sense of pessimism and get cracking in the face of a pandemic, setting an example for others to follow.

It would be appropriate to revisit some verses of the scripture:

Whatever actions great persons perform, common people follow. Whatever standards they set, all the world pursues. (3.21) 

When the mind, restrained from material activities, becomes still by the practice of Yog, then the yogi is able to behold the soul through the purified mind, and he rejoices in the inner joy. (6.20)

 

 In that joyous state of Yog, called samādhi, one experiences supreme boundless divine bliss, and thus situated, one never deviates from the Eternal Truth. (6.21)

 

 Having gained that state, one does not consider any attainment to be greater. Being thus established, one is not shaken even in the midst of the greatest calamity. (6.22)

 

 That state of severance from union with misery is known as Yog. This Yog should be resolutely practiced with determination free from pessimism. (6.23)

 

 Completely renouncing all desires arising from thoughts of the world, one should restrain the senses from all sides with the mind. (6.24)

 

With the benefit of hindsight, those who have a positive attitude are not only surviving the virus but have also discovered newer dimensions in their lives. They are on the way to re-skilling themselves and learning other trades. For many, especially in countries like India, an abiding faith in a divine power brings about a sense of surrender, acceptance, patience and resilience. The result is that they end up following the key lessons of Bhagavad Gita, even though in a subconscious manner. This helps them to do well during the kind of churning that the pandemic has inflicted on us.

What the virus has thrown up is a challenge to human beings to live, work and become smarter; to respect nature and environment better and to focus on being sustainable. It has prodded us in the ribs to be more flexible in our thinking and to expect the unexpected.

It has brought home some basic truths: that human beings come first; also, that the key lessons imparted by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on a battlefield some 5,500 years ago continue to be relevant to this day.

(Inputs from Mr Ashok Narayan are gratefully acknowledged; translations of Gita verses courtesy https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org)

(The illustration is reproduced with permission from the illustrator, Arati Shedde, and Heartfulness Magazine – www.heartfulnessmagazine.com.)

 

(Part 3 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-virus-and-an-early-onset-of-industrial-revolution-4-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/corona-virus-leadership-traits-and-human-values)

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In order to commemorate 125 years of the Chicago address of Swami Vivekananda, Integrating Spirituality and Organisational Leadership (ISOL Foundation) had recently organised a World Congress on Vedic Foundations of Management Science.

Several luminaries and experts in diverse fields addressed the gathering, which was inaugurated on the 11th of September at the Breasted Hall, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago. Distinguished Trinity and ISOL Awards were presented on the day. The event concluded on the 13th of September, 2018.

The Inaugural Session started with a Welcome Address by Dr J L Raina, Chairman of ISOL Foundation. Vedic Mantras were chanted by Mr Ashok Vyas, followed by a Welcome Song penned by Mr D V Shastry.

Prof Sunita Singh Sengupta, Founder ISOL Foundation, welcomed the delegates and presented a Background Paper.

The Inaugural Addresses were delivered by the following:

  • Ms Neeta Bhushan, Consul General of India in Chicago
  • Dr Larry…

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How have some of our business leaders responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic? Well they appear to be following the popular saying that when times get tough, the tough get going!

As per press reports, Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and MD of Hindustan Unilever, has spoken of the kind of steps taken to boost the company’s prospects by focusing better on health, hygiene and sanitation products. As many as 50 new product and pack innovations are said to have been made. Agility and speed have helped.

Manu Jain, MD of Xiaomi India, has said that the pandemic has taught him the importance of empathy and patience during tough times. The ability to be able to put oneself in another person’s shoes stands out. Instant gratification is nowhere on the horizon; patience alone helps. So does slowing down and staying calm.

Ronojoy Dutta, CEO, IndiGo, has highlighted the importance of staying connected as well as being transparent with employees so as to retain their trust. According to him, irrespective of the situation, honesty and transparency win in the harshest of times. According to C P Gurnani, CEO and MD, Tech Mahindra, leaders need to give up their ‘command and control’ mindset and shift to a ‘mentor and inspire’ mindset.

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services, concludes that resilience matters as much as performance.

(*Source: The Economic Times Magazine, August 30-September 05, 2020, etc)

Leadership traits which help

Leaders who thrive in an era of heightened uncertainty and bloated entropy are better placed to steer their organizations more purposefully and effectively. The virus has highlighted the following qualities in someone who leads an organization in such stormy times: Prioritizing people. Creating clarity on what needs to be done; providing hope and refusing to let a mood of despondency creep in. Having an ear to the ground and being flexible in an evolving crisis; engaging with other stakeholders, including employees, to understand their concerns better.

The virus has brought into focus the dire need for such leaders. It has even indicated the kind of traits such leaders should have: empathy, compassion, higher resilience, an inner sense of peace and equanimity, brain stilling, actions which are rooted in basic human values and better concern for the environment.

It is already understood that leaders who believe in delegation, decentralization and quiet consensus building are able to handle crises better. The approach to problem solving needs to be non-muscular. A shock-and-awe tactics is best avoided.

Leader Mindsets and Human Values

Prof G P Rao, a behavioural scientist of repute and the founder of SPANDAN, a NGO which espouses the cause of human values in organizations, demonstrates that leaders have three kinds of mindsets: ‘I am Everything’, ‘I am Nothing’ and ‘I am Something’.

In a recent study, he has identified the following five topmost values perceived as being conducive to tackling the pandemic successfully:

  • Faith in basic goodness of human beings
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • A positive outlook: Happiness – contentment – self fulfillment
  • Respect to nature and mother earth, and,
  • Preparedness.

The empirical study covered a total of 100 professionals, of which 57 were drawn from the senior and middle management rungs of a software company and 43 belonged to a mixed group from different professions and organizations. The study was conducted during the months of July and August, 2020.

The basic premise is that ‘I am Something’ leader mindset needs to balance the needs and aspirations of others and that of the environment, choose suitable human values and facilitate others to do likewise.

Examples quoted above from the practical business world also testify to the proposition put forward by Prof Rao – that the aim of a leader should be to strike and acquire an optimal balance between and among the select human values so that there is synergy between ‘I am Something’ leadership and human values.

By reposing one’s faith in the basic goodness of human beings, by responding to fresh challenges in a creative and innovative manner, by adopting a sunnier disposition, by preparing for contingencies in advance and by reconfiguring operations with due respect to nature and mother earth – that is how the challenges posed by the pandemic are being met.

(Inputs from Prof G P Rao are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Part 2 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership) 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-virus-and-an-early-onset-of-industrial-revolution-4-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/corona-virus-some-lessons-from-bhagavad-gita)

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When businesses started limping back to a state of suboptimal normalcy – call it the new normal, if you will – they woke up to the kind of belt-tightening they could do by increasing their dependence on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and many other technological advances. Many digital czars see the pandemic accelerating tech-trends in the long run, driving social good.

The future portends enlarging the scope of technology in such diverse realms as education, health, security, agriculture, river management and the like. India has just announced plans to create a health data base for its citizens. Hopefully, when a suitable vaccine comes up, an ambitious roll-out program could be undertaken.

According to Genpact CEO Tiger Tyagarajan, the pandemic has cut companies’ digital transformation timelines to as little as 6-12 months from about 4-5 years. Remote working and online transactions have already become a norm rather than an exception across industries.

Rahul Aggrawal, CEO and MD of Lenovo India believes that ‘the recovery journey could be tedious and technology is playing a critical role in helping us adapt to this new reality. The growing role of technology is already evident through enabling remote working, virtual learning, remote business engagement and significant growth in tele-medicine, e-commerce, PCs, smart phones and many other industries.’

Cheer-bots and Bot-dogs have started brightening up life for sports persons and patients. In Japan, in stadiums bereft of human presence, robot cheerleaders have perked up players on the field. Robotic priests have started popping up in Buddhist temples. Therapy dogs have started spreading sweetness and light amongst patients.

Large companies which place a premium on employee goodwill have responded by hiking salaries, promoting good performers and facilitating work-from-home. Quite a few others have had no other option but to resort to issuing pink slips and giving people a compulsory break from work. Many have slashed salaries temporarily so as to manage their cash flows better. Many others are struggling to cope with a sudden spike in demand after a lull induced by extended lockdowns.

The fact that growth rates have plummeted across most sectors of the economy indicates the need for accelerated innovation and a higher rate of learning. Since newer technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning need to be absorbed faster, there is a need to have hybrid organizations which utilize technological interventions alongside human ingenuity.

As per recent press reports, Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of Infosys, has highlighted the need to absorb newer technologies faster. Falguni Nayar, Founder and CEO of Nykaa, emphasizes that ‘Digital has emerged as a clear Winner.’ Whether shopping for daily provisions or for cars, the customers have shown a preference for digital transactions. Virtual meetings have become a norm. Carbon footprints of organizations have got reduced.

The pandemic is helping leaders to identify the slack in their systems. The need for leaders to keep coming up with out-of-box solutions was never higher.

(Part 1 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/corona-virus-leadership-traits-and-human-values

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/corona-virus-some-lessons-from-bhagavad-gita)

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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…

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ashokbhatia

One of the major rewards of being a part of the gang of 1976 has been the kind of strong and resilient bonds of friendship one has been able to forge. Bonds which have survived the harsh slings and arrows of Life. Bonds which are like underground cable connections – dormant, but in place, ready to be reactivated as and when necessary.Panjab_University

Way back in the 1970s, UBS was an integral part of what was then known as the Department of Commerce and Business Management. Students of the Commerce stream would tend to treat the ones from the Management stream with some degree of awe, though laced with not-so-healthy contempt. Some lecturers from the Commerce side regularly put on a tie, trooped down to the ground floor, and shared their wisdom in de-mystifying balance sheets and cash flows with the Management students.

How friends made me gate-crash, cruise through, and…

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ashokbhatia

Ladies and Gentlemen of the world,

Allow me to lodge a protest.

The derogatory manner in which I am generally referred to by the Homo sapiens is a matter of sincere regret. I wish to ass-everate that I have sterling qualities of head and heart. Even though a vast majority of you copy me ass-iduously in your day-to-day lives, you hold the member of my species in a low esteem. This is patently unfair. Permit me to set the record straight and ass-ert myself.

Members of your species have always given me a raw deal. You wilfully neglect some of my great contributions in diverse fields of life. Prohibition, literature, health, discipline, education, free speech, human values, law and order, science, politics, management, architecture, adventure and logistics are some of the fields where I have enabled your civilization to scale great heights.

Here is a quick recapitulation of some of…

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ashokbhatia

The gang of twenty-five wannabe managers, when it entered the not-so-hallowed precincts of the University Business School of Panjab University, Chandigarh in the year 1974, was clueless as to the effective use to which the power of music could be put to practice the art of managing people.

Much later in their careers, some members of the gang might have woken up to the immense potential of healthy musical practices when it came to surviving in the corporate jungle. Some would have soared higher whistling the tune that their bosses wanted to hear from them. Others would have become great leaders based on the results their teams produced, much like an orchestra gets led by a conductor to produce mellifluous symphonies.HIS MASTER’S VOICE

Some might have perfected the art of phasing out dissent from their team members by the sheer power of their vocal chords, not alike the way even soulful lyrics get drowned…

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ashokbhatia

Success often makes us complacent. On the other hand, failures help us in our relentless pursuit of excellence.OVERSTAYING ONE’S WELCOME

My own experience tells me that it helps to befriend and manage our failures. Each failure makes us discover a latent strength of ours. Each one has the potential to open up fresh vistas in our lives.

Yes, it also helps to take a step back to evaluate our successes, so the critical factors behind those could be understood better.

Befriending Failures

There is no cut-and-dried formula for managing failures. However, I do believe that a renewed focus on the following factors can help us in getting more out of our failures.

Giving up Self-pity

It does not get us anywhere. It only ties us down to a past which can’t be rewound and rerun. Negative things do happen. It does not mean that all others are as happy as they…

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