Sunday, 23 December 2012

Corporate lessons from Mythology-1

The modern day Taylor’s scientific management is based on achieving specialization through division of labor. Same way, the knowledge, weapons, wealth and land were supposed to be handled by a specialized Varna during Mahabharat age. The Varna system – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya & Sudhra is a highly debatable subject, on which I intend writing series of blogs, as we go along further in this series.

The next lesson on the concept of trusteeship of business is very well addressed by ‘vidura’ in Mahabharat. The corporate managers are not agents but trustees of the company, argues two professors John Kay and Aubrey Silberston.

‘Dritharashtra’ asks ‘vidura’ for advice on his son Duriyodana’s argument that the throne would have been occupied by Dritharashtra but for his blindness, hence the throne should be succeeded by Duriyodana only.

Vidura replied that sons can inherit only what belongs to the father. The kingdom does not belong to the king, but he only has the responsibility of looking after the welfare of the kingdom. This is the trusteeship concept we are talking today.

As an advisor ‘vidura’ spelt out several principles known as ‘vidura needhi’. Tax collection with a human face, calmness in a crisis, using intellect against temptations, keeping away from jealousy, lust and anger were all the subjects dealt with by ‘vidura’.

To-day’s personality development sessions address diligence, benevolence, forgiving, patience, truth, charity, self restraint, moderation in speech, avoiding negative benchmarking and so on. All these were propagated by vidura, as an advisor in the Mahabharata.

After the war was over, Yudhishtra was crowned and he seeks the advice from Bheeshma on his deathbed. He advised him on how to rule the kingdom. These are the lessons for a CEO of a corporate to-day.

Bheeshma advises on straight forwardness, action oriented approach, self restraint, humility, righteousness, secrecy of plans, intelligence on enemy (competitor intelligence), polite but firm attitude, caring for the welfare of all stakeholders and so on.

Most of the corporate lessons on leadership, personality development, corporate governance were all spelt out by Mahabharata in the last Dwapara Yuga itself.

The Planet: will it be extinct by 2012 Dec?

The Mayan calendar ends by 21st December 2012. Is the world going to be extinct after 21st Dec 2012? The Hindu scriptures say otherwise. Here is a version of Hindu time scale & calendar.

Q:- Is the planet due for extinction in this yuga?
A:- The evolution of our world has been described in our scriptures. Who said the world is going to come to an end now? That is a myth; there is still a long way to go. Lord Bramha’s day and night determines the state of our universe. Day and night for Bramha consists of one thousand chaturyugas each.

When it is Bramha’s night there is no activity in the universe, while when it is Bramha’s day, (called as one “Kalpa”) the universe is active.

One kalpa consisting of a thousand chaturyugas are further divided into 14 Manvantras. Hence one Manvantra represents 71 chaturyugas (1000 divided by 14). We are now in the seventh Manvantra and in the 28th chaturyuga of the 71 chaturyugas of this Manvantra. Therefore planet has balance life left as under –
Balance of 7 Manvataras viz., (7 x 71) 497 Chaturyugas plus balance in this current running Manvantara viz., (71-28) 43 Chaturyugas. Thus we have 540 (497+43) Chaturyugas left. Our planet has still a long way to go.

Q: 540 Chaturyugas is fine but how long is one chaturyuga?
A:- “To answer you quickly, one chaturyuga has 4,320,000 earth years. But it is called chaturyuga or four yugas for a reason. Each chaturyuga is further divided into four yugas namely, Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. In the same order of listing, these yugas follow a time line of total years in the ratio of 4:3:2:1.

Satya Yuga had 1,728,000 years, Treta Yuga had 1,296,000 years, present Dwapara Yuga had 864,000 and the future Kali Yuga has 432,000 years. Even the number of avatars of Vishnu follow the timeline of the yugas i.e. 4,3,2,1 avatar in each yuga.

The cycles are repeated like the seasons, waxing and waning within a greater time-cycle of creation and distraction of the universe.

All the planets will finally be absorbed by the Lord, from whom they initially emerged, at the end of 1000 chathur yugas. We still have 540 more chaturyugas to go, at which point we will face a “Maha Pralaya” or a universal disaster.

You and I should not worry about the end of earth any time soon.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Corporate lessons from Mahabharata

Character driven competence is mooted as the panacea for all corporate illness to-day. Character without competence is an empty paradise, competence without character is a crook’s paradise. Character with competence alone is the real paradise.

In Mahabharata, the great guru Dhronacharya taught the skills of archery to Pandavas and Kauravas. But he taught Brahamasthra (Something similar to the modern day intercontinental ballistic missile) only to Arjuna, not even to his own son Aswathama, who was equally competent.

When he was queried on this, he says –Only Arjuna has both the character and competence. It is not just enough to know how to use the weapon, but when and why we should use – all these he should know.
Hence he preferred to teach this missile technique to Arjuna, the character driven competent guy. The management should ensure that character co-exists with competence.

In 360ยบ appraisals, the character and competence is evaluated in many corporates to-day. The quality of the means than the end is important. In ENRON it was the accounting model that was driving the business model.

The cart was pulling the horse there. The so called watch dogs became pet dogs with wagging tails. In short, there was a total collapse of character at ENRON.

Intellectual sharpness without emotional purity is a potential recipe for perverted cunning manoeuvres for personal gain. The positive skills have to be backed up by normative values – otherwise it will result in nefarious application (example Shakuni of Mahabharata).

To-day’s corporate disasters have the roots in such ethical bankruptcies. You can not create economic prosperity on the foundation of ethical bankruptcy.

In Mahabharat, Vyasa makes a clarion call: “Artha (wealth creation) and kama (Materialistic enjoyment) have to be attained on the foundation dharma (righteous conduct).

To-day every one of us is stressing the need for co-existence of business ethics and bottom line. The business and commerce can and need to succeed – even in competitive environments – with high degrees of ethics and moral attitude.

We will not cry – ‘Sinless wealth is an optic illusion’, if we factor the maxim of alignment of ‘artha’ and ‘kama’ with ‘dharmic’ conduct. No mythology advocates against enjoyment. But we need dharmic sense. We can not rob some body and enjoy.

More to follow …..

Corporate Lessons from Mythology

Many Researchers draw lessons from the ancient Indian epics. The characters in the epics leave lasting lessons for the managers of the organizations.

Who said that mythology gives “gyan”? When we search for ancient Indian texts, we would land up at the Upanishads, the Vedas, the major epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and Panchathantra stories.

All these are mistakenly identified with the Hindu religion.  All these convey that he who cannot manage himself can manage nothing else.

These recognize that all living things are united by the same source of powers, you may call it by any name. Despite the diversities, there is a commonality in the Indian culture. Isn’t it? Let me address the corporate lessons, I learnt from Indian epics.
First let us take Mahabharata. There is a verse in ancient verse in Puranas. “There is no word which is not a mantra. No plant which does not have medical qualities. There is no man who is useless. But an organizer is scarce”.

Yes, the organizer, the leader is a scarce resource, as we keep debating in the corporate circles “Are the leaders born or made? Charismatic leadership traits (CLT) are discussed in the management schools. In America, CEO is given the heroic status – he drives the vision.

The greatest of all such organizer of the last Dwapara yuga (Before 3000 BC) is none other than Lord Krishna.

Without a weapon on hand, He was the greatest strategist and tactician of the Mahabharata war. The so called justification of  white lies in a crisis – conditionally accepting a lie if it is to uphold ‘Dharma’ was demonstrated by Lord Krishna many times at the Mahabharat war.

Mahabharata gave birth to Bheesma Needhi, Vidhura Needhi and Bhagavad Gita – all these give great lessons on governance, leadership, management and governing the self.

Bhagavad Gita’s great pronouncement - ‘Do your duty. We have no control in the fruits of the work. Do not have the reward in your mind while doing the duty’. This principle of attachment with detachment is the way of life for all mankind.

Focus on the roots and not the fruits. Chase your dream but learn to face the result, as it unfolds.  In this competitive corporate landscape, Passion at the input phase and philosophical outlook at the output phase drives my corporate life smoothly.

More to follow …..