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Thursday, Dec 29, 2005


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Can Indian corporate management mature?

S. Ramachander

THE prevalent holiday season all over the world prompts one to ask whether Indian managers ever take regular breaks at all. Or, are they always chasing deadlines, driving themselves to the point of taking sick leave?

One wonders whether given exhaustion and stress among young executives today, some planned recuperation and recreation must not be made mandatory. That would be a good New Year resolution to make — and announce so widely that others can remind you to keep it.

One talks a good deal about Indian companies wanting to become learning organisations, to embrace an innovative way of life, tapping into the creative energies of their people, in order to keep abreast of international competition. Organisational change is the big buzzword. Yet, one wonders if it is at all possible, because the people are the same ones used to living under a different working atmosphere, and a less pressured, more bureaucratised work style. Yet, change we must — and rapidly, so say all the leaders and gurus.

Therefore, where does one start? And where to find the extra energy, the higher level of dedication and perseverance or quality consciousness, call it what you will, to enable them to work very differently — and ensure that they still remain effective and not go off the rails health wise physical or mental?

This cannot really happen unless senior managers and leaders appreciate the extent to which they must fundamentally alter their mindsets.

They ought to jettison the command and control ways of a near-feudal past, allowing some relaxation and levity to enter. Only then the flowering and nurturing of the creative spirit in an organisation would follow.

Culture, it is said, is the product of leisure. So is creativity — which calls for a sense of proportion and a measure of tolerant good humour, willingness to experiment, and allowing curiosity to play about a bit.

All the research studies have established the connection between the working climate and new ways of looking at one's job and the work place — which by definition is the basis for innovation.

Indian managers seem to suffer from a shortage of a sense of humour in the workplace. The tougher competition becomes, the harder it is to achieve one's sales and profit goals, their faces take on a grim and determined look — and any attempt at lightening the atmosphere is seen as an affront to the dignity of those present.

Top management still seem to be governed by the old adage that suggests that the King should reserve his smiles for special occasions and tolerate no joking where minions are present.

Too much of any trait is dysfunctional and taking oneself too seriously is a prime example, a besetting sin of most senior management in this country, in which we can include consultants and management gurus as well! In fact, the argument for a sense of proportion is not just for the better efficiency of the workplace but also to achieve the much-desired work-life balance in life itself.

And the first step to restore this balance is to let people go off on holidays, compulsorily if need be. Let them commune with nature or play with their children, develop a hobby or simply be by themselves, switching off worries and the mobile phones together.

It is too easy, in the alternative, for the entire company can fall a victim to arrogant sense of self-importance. That will inevitably spill over to one's stance towards consumers, competition business partners, and then employees. Corporate hubris will take root, with disastrous results.

Conscious attempts to rein in the workaholic tendency and to celebrate the all-rounder personality are powerful measures you can take to bring some sense into your neck of the woods, in the corporate jungle.

See you next year, on return from vacation!

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