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

The stiff-upper-lip approach

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

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

The neglected need to boost our EQs

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

The dashers and the rabbits

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

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

Bertie image

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

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

The USP of the Class of 1977

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

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

Managed walks down the aisle

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

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

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

Management knowledge put to loving use

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

Managing the Affairs of the Heart

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

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

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

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

(Related Posts:

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

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

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(This is a dramatized version of the experiences of Prof. Sandeep Mann while he was at UBS. It is built around some facts furnished by him as to his movie marathon experience of those days. Inputs from him are gratefully acknowledged.

The narrative below is penned – or, key-board-ed, if you prefer – on his behalf. For bouquets, if any, please feel free to contact him. As to brickbats, you may risk hurling those at yours truly.)

Much before one of our learned professors started sharing with us, the batch of 1990, the nuances of Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU, in short) and statistical models of exponential smoothening, we had figured out that two of the most high-risk businesses that beckoned us in the post-UBS phase of our lives were Politics and Movies, not necessarily in that order. Both need deep pockets, a very high risk appetite and, of course, the kind of obnoxious approach to human relations which many of us were not quite comfortable with.

Be that as it may, endeavours in both fields need as much support as they can get. The support may be in the form of either adulation or vitamin M.

Learning DMUU from movies

I confess my approach to learning Decision Making Under Uncertainty was by simply trooping in to movie halls and making my humble contribution to keep the hapless producers afloat. As the lights within the hall faded, I could readily identify myself with the kind of uncertainties the hero and the heroine faced in their lives, and how they managed to overcome the same.

poster of chandni

This is precisely the manner in which I focused my energies on supporting Bollywood in my own humble way. Bollywood’s financial stress was pulling at my heart-strings and I did my very best to cheer up our dream merchants in days which were so very obviously distressful for them.

Anyone in my place, exposed to an all-male batch listening to monotonous lectures inside class rooms, would have preferred the company of the likes of Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Kimi Katkar, et al.

khoj-hindi-film

From the 1st of July 1989 till the 30th of September 1989, in 92 days flat, I saw 104 movie shows. Quite a few were repeated several times.

The Just-In-Time approach

Here is the general schedule I used to follow:

11 AM: KC theatre

3 PM: Jagat theatre

6 PM: Neelam theatre

9 PM: Kiran theatre

The Just-In-Time approach always worked. The fact that three of the theatres mentioned were located within a walking distance of each other made the project feasible. The shoeshine boys outside these halls contributed their own bit by providing tickets as and when the same were not available through the official channels. As to meals, these comprised ‘samosas’, ‘bread pakodas’ and sandwiches dished out by the theatre canteens during intervals.

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The Guinness Award which never came

There were several perks that I enjoyed in the process.

With all the brisk walking and jogging between theatres, a healthier glow suffused the physical frame. My interpersonal relationship skills got honed up, what with the extent of networking with ticket counter clerks I had to indulge in.

Each night, during sleep, dreams came of the motley gang of heroines seen on the screen, somewhat filling the void created by a singular absence of the delicately nurtured in our batch. Some dreams were about terrifying encounters with villains and their henchmen. During day times, I would imagine myself to be one of the dashing heroes, though I never dared to bash up any gang of broad-chested males I encountered on and off the campus.

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I am still baffled though as to how I was never contacted by any pretty lass from Guinness, offering me a kiss on a cheek and a nomination for holding the world record in watching so many movies back to back.

The magic of movies

The movies seen then remain a string of blurred imagery in the deep recesses of the little grey matter I can boast of.

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Come September, and the priorities of life changed somewhat. The task of supporting Bollywood was left in the safer hands of the average person on the street, while the budding manager in me strived to catch up with my academic pursuits, so as to not cause a distress to my family.

No frivolous pursuit, this

Mind you, this was no frivolous pursuit. UBS indirectly enabled this with a deeper purpose. Several management lessons were learnt from the movies seen. The value of perseverance and hard work was understood. As the lights dimmed, one learnt the art of suspension of disbelief. Appreciation of arts led to an expansion of the consciousness. This led to some degree of spiritual upliftment.

eeshwar-film

The mind could get back to the all-male boredom of the classroom with some degree of freshness. The tyranny of the classroom became more bearable. The academic content could be absorbed better.

With me being literally off the campus for 92 days, peace prevailed. The delicately nurtured, giggling around at the Student Centre and hassled in general elsewhere, breathed easy.

tridev-film

Reorienting Management Education

People like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, R Balki and Rajkumar Hirani can teach us quite a lot about the techniques of managing uncertainty in our lives. Actors of the stature of our current MP from the City Beautiful, or her famous spouse, Anupam Kher, could also make us understand the nuances of managing careers rather well.

Lessons from literature, fine arts and movies have already become a part of the curricula at the premier institutes of management. I heartily approve. That is indeed the right way to make the young minds to get reconnected to their hearts and blossom even better. Absorbing the academic inputs with a dash of fine arts.

Mandarins who design courses for aspiring managers would do well to take note.

(Have a juicy anecdote to share with the alumni of UBS? Write to yours truly at akb_usha@rediffmail.com)

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

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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 then leave UBS

For one of the university management outfits ranked as number one in India then, it could have surely done without having to grant admission to someone of such a low calibre and managerial potential as yours truly.

But fate had other plans. Thanks to some postmen and a bunch of caring friends and well-wishers, yours truly did manage to worm his way into the not-so-hallowed portals of UBS.

Friends made then assured a lively stay on the campus, notwithstanding the dinghy hostel corridors and the tepid food dished out by the canteen contractors.

Friends also ensured that one got evicted from the system in due course of time, despite a Bollywood-style road accident which almost prevented one from taking all the examinations scheduled in the final semester on the campus.

UBS surely heaved a sigh of relief when yours truly boarded an outbound train and headed to one of the metros on a job-hunting spree.

This is how the saga unfolded.

Worming one’s way into UBS

Rewind to December 1973. A nation-wide strike of postmen ensured that a letter from IIM Ahmedabad asking yours truly to attend a group discussion and interview never made its way to me at Delhi University where I was busy pursuing my M. Sc. in Physics.

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In the first quarter of 1974, a similar call letter from UBS was about to be summarily ignored. But two close friends finally managed to persuade me to catch an overnight bus to Chandigarh. My argument – that an important laboratory examination scheduled at Delhi University on the very following day could go for a toss – fell on deaf ears.

When a somewhat groggy me reached the hostel where a 1974 batch friend was staying, the latter was dumbfounded to discover that I planned to attend the group discussion and interview in our national dress – a simple pyjama and kurta. Prompt arrangements were made by him to borrow a corporate style dress. A crash course was conducted on the fundamental particles which govern the technique of participating in a group discussion. Thus, suitably dressed and armed, I was led to the UBS entrance, much like a reluctant lamb about to be slaughtered.

pu-student-center

The rest, as you would put it, is history. By evening, it became clear that UBS had had the misfortune of taking yours truly in its fold, howsoever grudgingly.

Resistance on the family side was gradually overcome. A property had to be liquidated by my parents so that a part of the proceeds could be used to finance my further education. In July 1974, the session began in right earnest.

Cruising through the university eco-system

Surviving the hostel food

The tyranny of the hostel canteen food – a relentless serving of raajma-chaawal ad nauseam – had to be overcome. Late night visits to gobble up greasy omelettes and bread slices topped with half of an Amul butter pack offered at the hand carts opposite the PGI gate were looked forward to. On Sunday mornings, delicious breakfasts served at the nearby PEC canteen were put down the hatch with a flourish.

With the help of a friend, a make-shift cooking arrangement was made in the hostel room of yours truly. Yet another friend pitched in with his procurement and logistics services.

Yummy omelettes followed by senwai-ki-kheer were often whipped up, leaving several of our hostel mates green with envy. Some others, unable to resist the aroma wafting around in the corridor, did attempt to replicate the endeavour in their own rooms, each with a varying degree of success.

The Sholay magic

sholay-poster

After having been through the rigours of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and mind-numbing formulae of quantum mechanics, management subjects were relatively easy on the grey matter. Routine trips to movie halls boosted up their revenues somewhat. The highlight was the release of the movie Sholay at Jagat theatre. One did not realize then that box-office history was in the making.

A batch mate, ostensibly the only one who ever maintained a car while staying at the hostel, belonged to the family which owned two movie halls in the city, Jagat being one of those. One day, having seen the first day, first show, he came back hugely excited and was all praise for the Hollywood-style pacy, action thriller. So much so that he picked six of his batch mates in his Fiat car to watch the late evening show of the movie.

Much to our dismay, the hall was fully booked. But lo and behold, out came six chairs, placed on the aisle, for this bunch of crazy cine goers , a VVIP treat, courtesy the batch mate.

An exciting time for the automobile industry

The car owned by this particular batch mate was a source of perennial fun for many of the 1976 gang. We had endless sojourns, exciting trips and fun-filled days and nights exploring the City Beautiful and its neighborhood in the Fiat – the then Empress of the road. (The then Emperor being the strong and sturdy Ambassador car). A test model of Maruti was just in the offing, at a price point of Rs. 25,000 each!

MBA 1976

Once in a while, nocturnal visits to Morni Hills cheered us up no end. So were visits to Sukhna Lake, Kasauli and Shimla. Rock Garden was just about beginning to take shape.

Shaping the intellect

The hostel room of yours truly also doubled up as a mini lecture hall. The door of the cupboard served as a blackboard. Classmates who had been busy – either with juicier escapades elsewhere on the campus or had been mentally absent when a lecture was getting delivered – made it a habit of trooping in to improve their intellect.

The trauma and the relief

The trauma of the final semester examinations eventually caught up with us. A friend from the 1975 batch offered to share some of his class notes with us. A mobike trip was made to his house nearby. However, on our way back, a wayward cyclist hit us near the Sector 15 market.

In my whole life so far, this was the first time I experienced a complete erasure of memory and a blackout which lasted a whole night. Much like in a Bollywood scenario, I came to my senses the next morning while reclining on my bed in the hostel room, only to ask in a feeble voice, ‘Where am I?’. Concerned friends had spent their entire night sitting by my side, keeping an eagle eye on my condition. They were quite relieved when I did not ask the dreaded question, ‘Who am I?’

With the final examinations due to start within a day’s time, a process of reverse coaching started, where I was at the receiving end. Groggy, unfocused and in a dazed condition, I was somehow made to take the Business Policy examination. Rest of the examinations followed in quick succession and were a bit challenging to the frayed nerves. End of examinations always calls for a celebration. This one was even more so.

The bonds that linger

These are but some of the memories one cherishes. All of us have a unique story of our own – that of entering, cruising through, and exiting the MBA program of Panjab University. Of the friends we made and the cliques we were a part of. Of the acts we indulged in, whether glorified or goofy.

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UBS played the role of an airport on which our individual planes taxied for some time and finally took off. Some became entrepreneurs. Some soared to great heights in their chosen career.

Wherever they happen to be, and whatever the time-lapse, the lingering bonds of friendship endure. Regular get togethers are not essential, but highly desirable. These do help us to keep the embers of friendship glowing.

(Inputs from Lalit Kapur and Kul Bhushan Khullar are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related posts:

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-class-of-1976-some-encounters-of-a-musical-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/an-ode-to-our-teachers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/revisiting-the-alma-mater)

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Is there a scope of improvement in management education? If so, how do we enrich it further?

I confess that management education is not my forte. The only exposure I have had to this exalted field was when I was at the receiving end, so to say – that is, as a MBA student myself! But, over the years, interaction with the younger managers has provided me with valuable clues as to the challenges being faced by the current crop of MBAs. This alone emboldens me to endeavor to propose what I believe could be done to enrich the process further. Of course, I do so with utmost humility at my command!

·         A 360-degree CEO View

Management education opens up one’s mind to various facets of an enterprise. However, it does so through the bifocals of a top honcho’s perspective. Upon entering the industry, a befuddled greenhorn could get a thermal shock. Most of the concepts covered in a typical MBA course appear to be irrelevant at that stage of one’s career. Depending upon an incumbent’s innate strengths and the type of opportunities one gets in one’s career, it could take around 15-20 years for one to reach a level where the first whiff of real business strategy and corporate planning etc comes one’s way.

What we need perhaps is a better emphasis on the dilemmas faced by middle level managers. This can possibly be achieved by structured interactions with management experts in the middle rung of large organizations. Case studies which are designed to showcase the types of challenges faced by middle management could also help.

A 360-degree view is absolutely fine, as long as the gondola takes us not only to a mountain top at 3,500 m in the Swiss Alps, but also delights us with the panoramic views at 1,500 m and 2,500 levels.

·         Business History

The way Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis grew up, adapting to times which ranged from British governance to the license and permit-raj days, followed by the phase of economic reforms in India, is fascinating.

If one group focused on weaving ethical values into its business operations, the other capitalized on the pent-up demand in the market. Even their approach to philanthropy was different – one ploughed back its resources by focusing on the fine arts, fundamental sciences and medical facilities, the other earned the public’s respect by constructing a string of temples and related facilities for the common man.

Dhirubhai Ambani became a darling of the masses and popularized the concept of equity investments amongst the teeming millions of India. Post economic reforms, entrants like Infosys delivered good value to shareholders and employees in the newly emerging knowledge economy of India.

Examples abound from the international business arena as well. One is not talking merely of legends like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs here. Alfred D. Chandler’s ‘The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business’, and Charles Wilson’s ‘History of Unilever’ offer great insights into the field of business history.

While pursuing business history, one comes across entrepreneurial heroes as well as exploitative villains and empire builders as well as corporate raiders. A truly enriching exposure for a wannabe entrepreneur and/or an intra-preneur!

·         Lessons from Scriptures

Whether it is Ramayana, Mahabharat, Thirukkural or Chanakya’s Artha Shastra, there is a rich repertoire of management strategy as well as tactics enshrined in our scriptures. Each one contains gems of wisdom which can be put to effective use by management institutes which are already waking up to utilizing the wealth of wisdom available in literature to drive home some key management concepts.

The story of Lord Rama teaches us about waging a war with very limited resources. It also tells us about succession planning, ideal management practices based on fair and impartial conduct of those in power, humility, besides covering several other concepts.

Mahabharat can teach us about the perils of attachment to one’s near and dear ones in life/career, merit taking precedence over pedigree in promotions, tactical retreats in the face of imminent disaster and the risks of hasty decision making sans careful thought, to name only a few. Bhagavat Gita is full of practical wisdom for those aspiring to become professional managers.

Thirukkural tells us about the duties of a king and so does Chanakya Neeti.

For grooming business leaders who have a strong sense of values embedded in their thought processes, our scriptures are an invaluable resource.

·         Finishing

For those who are aspiring for a global career, the main cultural differences between different continents of the world can improve the value-add of management education. Dining habits, etiquette and manners followed by diverse cultures across the globe can also be incorporated in consultation with institutes of learning in the field of hospitality and tourism management.

Observing and following the organization’s culture when kick-starting one’s career, protocols of behaving with seniors, peers and subordinates and do’s and don’ts of e-manners to be followed while handling e-mails, etc. can also be driven home.

Some of the above could be immensely useful to students who step into management education with socially disadvantaged sections of our society. Covering such areas would tend to make this field more inclusive in nature.

·         A Focus on Follower-ship As Well

‘Leadership’ is a favorite topic in management. We have a rich literature providing invaluable insights into various aspects of leadership. Somehow, the traits of ‘Follower-ship’ have not merited much attention at the hands of management gurus and academics. As a discipline, does management education not need to create good followers as well? After all, a leader without a gang of followers could end up being pretty clueless!

The harsh reality is that an overwhelming majority of MBAs would turn out to be followers. If a leader is expected to have charisma, a follower needs to have common sense. If a leader leads by example, the follower realizes that blind faith could mislead the team. If a leader is supposed to be adept at resolving inter-personal conflicts, a follower is expected to work harmoniously with other team members.

Most business leaders today concur that planning is relatively easy; their real challenge lies in flawless implementation. Now, if a leader lays out a strategic vision backed by meticulous planning, smooth   implementation can only come through a bevy of hard-working followers.

·         Yoga and Meditation

Physical and mental fitness is a sine qua non to do well in one’s career. Institutions training the managers for tomorrow can figure out innovative ways to bring in these elements as well into the management education curriculum.

It appears that we would do well to beef up conceptual knowledge imparted in management courses with skills and values that would make MBAs more competitive and more balanced in their approach to real issues in the industry.

The managers of management education (in India, as also elsewhere) may find some merit in the above propositions.  

 

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