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Wednesday, 19 April 2017 07:21

Ushering Technology

The media, the government, the market is buzzing with talk of digitization. The preparedness for it seems to have just about begun while expectations continue to soar. Which way the trend will go, will be a testimony which time will provide. In the mean while the insights on management of change may help to chart out a definite path. Clearly this intervention will not be the first, for technological up gradation. It will certainly, also, not be the first for modernization. Yet, as of today, it looks more tentative than is good for evoking a robust confidence in its steady progress. This is so, because it needs to be, adequately registered that there will be limited digitization without being accompanied by adequate change in the culture of the market place and service providers. Advertisements on dealing with the drivers of 3 wheelers, tailors and whatever else do make a point. They are good as far as they go.Modernization is a multi-linear process. Development is a version of modernization which has to be culture specific. It moves best, when it energizes, cashing in on the aspirations of the individual and communities. An illustration will prove the point:There are territorial aristocracies say…
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 07:19

Unfolding Episodes of the Tata Opera

The removal of Cyrus Pallonji Mistry the head of the Tata conglomerate is news beyond boundaries. Business, however, in India has taken a fresh turn with this kind of move. Let us get some fundamentals right. There is no such thing as the Tata family, anymore, in the conventional terms of Indian business. This is not the best place to get into the pedigree and family tree analysis. However the first significant break in the family tree continuum took place with the succession of Ratan Tata to the Chairmanship of the Tata Sons board. JRD did not have a biological successor. Ratan Tata himself never married. This therefore was itself a significant departure in the succession pattern of family businesses.Consider the major family houses in India and without naming the significant ones the succession has almost always been by blood groups of biological descent, following the law of primogenitor. Sitting on the board of a major business family which had been successful for over 70 years when I raised the issue of investment and diversification the octogenarian Chairman and the head of the group had no hesitation in putting his foot down. His argument : “We do not have any…
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 07:00

Tata Soap Opera: Act2 Scene1

We had seen the possibility of the Tata soap opera unfolding, about a fortnight ago. The plot has since thickened. This is a bigger tragedy than what appears. The tragedy is about the slugfest in public domain and the delicacy of making, public, corporate information. The future will alone establish which way the wind is blowing. What is not a secret is that TCS has been the main stay of Tata Sons for decades. Going back to the times of Faqir Kohli who nurtured the infant organization to its adult shape, Ramadorai took forward the tradition brilliantly. I recall his even supporting a PhD work in Pittsburg on analyzing the cultural aspects of project work in TCS. Chandra (The popular name of TS Chandran) was nurtured by both Faqir and Ram. He proved a worthy inheritor. That is another story. However the impression needs to be resisted that under Cyrus all the companies started sinking, save TCS. TCS for long years was a division of Tata Sons, essentially because Tata Sons wanted, exclusive, control of the profits of TCS.Ratan himself has had very clear views on who he would approve as the head of a Tata firm and many will…
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 07:00

SHIFTING FULCRUM ( ? )

The last decade and a half has been seminal in yet one more recasting of the world. There has been major revision of the frame work of reference in interpretation of technological, financial and social events. The first major shift came in the early 1990’s when it was realized that it was possible to measure intellectual assets and the wealth that it would represent. The emergence of Bill Gates was a phenomenon which had revolutionary overtones in the world of work and that of the industry. Knowledge management at one stroke revolutionalized investment patterns and parameters of industry evaluations. Gradual emergence of China and India not to overlook the intrinsic strength of Japan, Singapore and other countries of South East Asia ensured that Asian perspective was more than just a geographical concept. The prosperity of west Asia and the assertion of the power of hydro carbon made sure that the only real conflict in the world was conflict for control of resources.The rest was the problem of branding. I am trying to make sense of it in categories that one is used to.The markets slowly recognized this shift and United States was no longer the growth pole of market economy.…
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 06:35

Managing ‘Risk’

Almost everyone is concerned about ‘managing risks’. In the worth-celebrating movie ‘Wednesday’ there was a reference to how anyone heading out of home in the morning would be worried about whether he would come back safe in the evening. The number of mishap’s which could happen would range from accidents to street rage to terrorist outfall to an unknown catastrophe. The dependent family members are bound to be worried for the person who ventures out. The safety parameter within the household is also under a cloud. The lack of a network to attend to a medical catastrophe is so definitive that various families have a protocol of cross checking through the day.What is said in preceding lines cannot be news to anyone. The difficulty, however, is that in the inability to come to grips with a problem, there is a tendency to circumvent it. Hence the problem doesn’t get sorted out. Indeed, some have exercised the choice of confronting the problem even if it means straining the personal relationships, but then this is not institutionalization. Decoding this to an organizational level is even a bigger task.The bald truth is that the risks which organization run at the level of simple…
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 06:33

Going beyond growth

A differentiation needs to be made between growth and development. Growth consists of an increase in substance, usually manifested by a proliferation of the structures already present. It is essentially continuous and quantitative in character, but can proceed in the absence of new structures only up to a point. Development on the other hand consists of an increase in structure, which is manifested by emergence of new structural forms and very often has a qualitative character. It can be discontinuous in nature marked by a series of jumps from one level of organisation to the next, but essentially is a response by the growing system to an increase in scale. Many would agree that amongst the pervasive problems confronted by present day organisations, are the following elements: increasing complexity, accelerated change, rapid technological advances, high dependence on expert advise, tunnel vision, reliance on standardised strategies. Some organisations deal with this successfully, others crumble. Increasing complexity is difficult to map; accelerated change leaves people breathless; rapid technological advances call for extraordinary resources; dependence on expert advice is seen ,by many, as a weakness; tunnel vision is at the cost of the helicopter vision; and reliance on standardised strategies eliminates contextual imperatives.Clearly…
Monday, 18 May 2015 09:05

#1 MinAcq Peter Drucker-(5)

With the #1MinAcq(# One Minute Acquaintance) I attempt a recall of my brush with celebrities the like of which one would want to get photographed with and then display it in one's drawing room.'Basking-in-reflected-glory' they call it.Pointless, some would sneer,others would say the 'warmth' of glory felt good, any how !!! This is the fifth in the series with Peter Drucker 1977,I was at the early stages of my management career,having given up my position as lecturer at St.Stephen's College and made a career shift as Assistant Professor to Indian Institute of Technology,Delhi.The brief was simple,help set up a management group at IIT-D and develop further the post graduate programme in management.That for the sake of administrative convenience was then,chrisend as 'MTech Programme in Management and Systems'.I did not quite realise for some time--indeed till it was already too late to withdraw--how ferocious the struggle with the Applied Systems Engineering group and the Industrial Engineering Group was going to be.Indeed,no 'negotiated settlement' seemed possible.My good colleague Sudhir Kakar decided to move to McGill, with me left to hold the baby with a couple of other colleagues who had each their own perceptual dilemmas.I decided to work on,besides the Organisational Behaviour…
Monday, 18 May 2015 09:05

#1MinAcq Morarji Desai-(4)

With the #1MinAcq(# One Minute Acquaintance) I attempt a recall of my brush with celebrities the like of which one would want to get photographed with and then display it in one's drawing room.'Basking-in-reflected-glory' they call it.Pointless, some would sneer,others would say the 'warmth' of glory felt good, any how !!! This is the fourth of the series. 1977: The preparation for the Xth Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences Congress were in full swing.Being a quinquinnial Conference, it clearly was a more serious event than the other routine Annual conferences.The 1973 Conference of ICAES in Chicago under the Presidentship of Sol Tax had been hugely successful. The stature of Sol Tax as an Anthropologist had given to the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Societies great mileage.Sol Tax had been succeeded, as President of ICAES , by L P Vidyarthi, whose classical work on "Sacred Complex of Gaya" had made strong credentials for Anthropologists,specially Social Anthropologists, from India.However given the predictable, crab mentality, some leading Social Anthropologists from India were restless at this recognition.The rest as the expression goes, is history.My own debut in Canberra in the field of Social Anthropology, in 1971 Congress of Human sciences in Asia and North…
Monday, 18 May 2015 09:05

#1Min Acq Sheikh Abdullah-(3)

With the #1MinAcq(# One Minute Acquaintance) I attempt a recall of my brush with celebrities the like of which one would want to get photographed with and then display it in one's drawing room.'Basking-in-reflected-glory' they call it.Pointless, some would sneer,others would say the 'warmth' of glory felt good, any how !!! This is the third of the series. After my return from Sussex University,somewhat coerced by William Shakespeare Rajpal,then Principal of St Stephen's college I decided that I had enough of College teaching.Further if technicalities were to be used to deny extension of my leave then clearly the message was loud and clear.The stint and success at AFRAS,Univ of Sussex and IDS at Univ of sussex had convinced me that time had come to move on ahead.I was doing very well in my chosen field, being perhaps the youngest scholar ever to be invited to the 31st International Conference of Human Sciences in Asia and North Africa in Canberra.(This was the reivented form of the International Orientalist Conference).Irrespective,a chance meeting with Sudhi Kakar in his office at IIT-D helped concretise the aspiration and I joined IIT-D in 1976 with a brief to contribute to the development of the Management Area.It…
Monday, 18 May 2015 09:05

#1MinAcq Indira Gandhi-(2)

With the #1MinAcq(# One Minute Acquaintance) I attempt a recall of my brush with celebrities the like of which one would want to get photographed with and then display it in one's drawing room.'Basking-in-reflected-glory' they call it.Pointless, some would sneer,others would say the 'warmth' of glory felt good, any how !!! This is the second of the series. Indira Gandhi was inducted into active politics very gradually.Fifties of the last century,saw some major shifts in the social protocol of pivotal centres of power in Delhi.The first, first lady of India(wife of the First President of the Republic,Dr Rajendra Prasad) chose to recluse herself from the formal responsibilities of the first lady.A precedence which,incidentally,came in handy to various successors to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.Jawahar lal Nehru incidentally had a different issue at Teen Moorti House(the then official residence of the Prime Minister of India).For those who may not know the Teen Moorti House was meant,originally,to be the rsidence of Commander-in-chief of the Indian army during the colonial period.It was strategically located, less than a kilometer away from Vice Regal Lodge (subsequently renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan) and was a straight drive from it.Having no appetitie for the repeat of an 1857,Lutyens Delhi had traces…
Monday, 18 May 2015 09:05

#1MinAcqJawahar Lal Nehru-(1)

With the #1MinAcq(# One Minute Acquaintance) I attempt a recall of my brush with celebrities the like of which one would want to get photographed with and then display it in one's drawing room.'Basking-in-reflected-glory' they call it.Pointless, some would sneer,others would say the 'warmth' of glory felt good, any how !!! This is the first of the series. !961.I was enrolled in St Xavier's Patna to be eligible to appear for my 'O' level school leaving certificate examination of Cambridge University to be held later in the year.I had turned fifteen and believed I held the world in my palms.An illustrious family name to fall back on,already an ex-visitor to UK,the winner of the best supporting actor's award in the immortal play "Time Limit" for role of Major Cargil,acknowledged for debating skills and was in the company of achievers and the talented. Jawahar Lal Nehru was vsiting Patna.Those were not the days of high security where the normal mortal was barricaded a kilometer from the hallowed presence of the celebrity.He was due to address a gathering of intellectuals at Sadaqat Ashram head quarters of the Bihar Pradesh Congress party.My father was invited and he asked me whether I would come.One…