Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gandhi Vs Gandhi

I salute Anna Hazare!

“If it is blackmail, I will do it again”, he said firmly. No roaring, no tantrums, just statement of fact. It was an unequal fight. One 73 year old, frail gentleman, who holds no official position, sits in a village and starts fasting. It shakes the foundations of people with all the powers, money and influence to run a country of a billion people. He does not target anyone in particular but those who are sitting on the chair not only have to take notice but have to bow in front of him and have to swing into action. Unassuming Anna emerges winner. No celebrations, no pumping fists, just one statement “(if required) I will do it again”.

Isn’t it a big irony?

Anna Hazare is one of the handful living Gadhians. The rulers did not believe in Gandian principals of rural development. But Anna practiced it. He transformed Ralegan Siddhi with sustained efforts. The village was on a typical downward spiral of poverty, jobless population, addiction to local made liquor, no rains so no agriculture. Anna started off with attacking the liquor addiction, got the jobless youth to work on fields, implemented rain water harvesting projects, empowered people. Today Ralegan Siddhi is transformed place. A brief description of the achievements:

  • Earlier just 300-350 acres of land was usable after water harvesting projects and building a micro dam the water table level increased and now villagers are able to harvest 2 crops in 1,500 acres

  • Milk production earlier was just 300 liters which has now gone up to 4,000 liters

  • The per capita income of villagers Rs. 225 to Rs. 2,500

 But the irony begins with Anna having to use the same principles that Gandhiji had to use against British rulers against our own rulers. There was no dandi march but he gets the same level of support from the “public”. People don’t gather in a place to become easy targets for police but the pressure of public opinion, amplified by media is immense. The rulers have to bow. Again.

64 years after independence satyagrah has to happen against our own rulers. That too for a something as basic as “corruption”. A 73 year old has to threaten to kill himself because people with power are not honest? Isn’t it ironical? Isn’t it shameful? Does it put question mark on what is India’s so called “progress”? In 64 years of self rule, we have not been able to create a single political party that is corruption-free.  India has to go a long way to be a mature democracy…forgets about being global superpower.

Anna has shown us the way. Gandhian principals still work. In a fight of principals Vs power, Principal wins. In a fight of Gandhi’s satyagrah Vs Gandhi’s name, satyagrah wins.

This victory should be the beginning. Battle is won, the war is still ON.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Management Lessons from India's World Cup Win!

For a change, as expected India has emerged as world champions in Cricket World Cup 2011. This was not the first time India went in as favorites to lift the cup. They were slated to win the Reliance world cup in 1987 before they were swept of by Gouch and Getting in semifinals. They entered the finals in South Africa in 2003. But they first got Gilchrist-ed, then Ponting-ed and Mcgrath-ed. So what was so different in 2011? Was it is because of Gary Kirsten the coach? Was it their inspirational coach Mike Horn?  What did team India do differently than other teams?

It is very well said that when the players reach the level of representing India at highest level, the coach is can’t really teach them more skills. His main job is the leverage the strengths of all existing players to overcome the conditions and the competition. Gary Kirsten did that really well. He did work closely with MSD, did not try to hog the limelight, worked with all senior players and created a cohesive unit. He backed match winners although they were out of form and Yuvi responded with 4 man-of-the-match and man-of the-series-award. Inspirational coach Mike Horn was a great addition. According to recent interview by Yuvraj Singh he taught the team that their hunger for winning has to be higher than their fear of losing. He ensured that the unit is hungry for wins.

To my mind, all these things were great preparation work but this was not the reason for success. Let me put it this way all these were necessary conditions but not sufficient ones. Indian team won because of application of all these things. I learnt some lessons about management from this great win.

Lesson 1 : Perform when it matters

Due to the peculiar structure of the world cup, there were only 3 matches that mattered. Quarter finals, Semi finals and Finals. Out of top 8 teams in the world, on a given day any team could beat another team so it was a question of winning these 3 games. In Super league matches, South Africa had a spotless record but they choked in the match that mattered. On the other hand, India’s position in league was unconvincing, but they peaked at right time to win these 3 games to take home the cup.

In corporate world, we see 2 types of people. Those always work hard and are consistent and those who may not be as consistent but peak at the right time. It might be hard for the type 1 people to maintain their consistency and failure at wrong moment could get their entire efforts down the drain. The conclusion for me is no matter what you do Perform when it matters.

Lesson 2 : You can’t fight competition weakness with your weakness

In World cup final, both India and Sri Lanka decided to spring surprises on each other. India included Sreesanth in place of Aswin and Sri Lanka flew in Randiv who was not in the original squad and played him ahead of Mendis. In both cases, both the teams opted surprise inclusion over performance. In the end, both moves had failed. Sreesanth was the most expensive bowler for India and Randiv went wicketless when he was supposed to break the back of Indian middle order. Perhaps, inclusion of Mendis would have altered the result for Sri Lanka. Or perhaps inclusion of Aswin would be have helped India to restrict Sri Lanka to a more reasonable total. But both teams go carried away in surprise the competition.

In corporate world, we are trying to outsmart out competitors all the time. On many occasions, one may design strategies which are focused on competition weakness but they may not necessarily be their areas of strength. They may drift into their area of weakness while targeting theirs. One needs to ensure that we are fighting competitor’s weakness by one’s strength.  There is a need to ensure that inadvertently, the battle is not drifting into their areas of weakness.

Lesson 3 : In moments of crisis, Leading from front is the best option

Two matches standout from the leadership stand point. Pakistan Vs India, Semifinal match. Indian bowlers were chipping away the wickets and pressure was building on Pakistan. Shahid Afridi still invokes fear in Indian minds, if not the players at least the spectators. But he was not just coming out to bat. He promoted Abdul Razaq to bat ahead of him. He claimed he was out of form and wanted to give a chance to players who had better chance of success. Fair enough. But it did not work. Now consider final match between India and Sri Lanka. Yuvraj Singh was slated to bat at no. 4. He was in top form; with 4 “man of the match” awards under his belt he was super high on confidence. MS Dhoni, the captain, on the other hand had failed consistently with the bat in that series. He was neither in best of his form nor confidence. But he walked out ahead of Yuvraj. The only reason was he wanted to lead from front. He wanted to send a strong message to opposition about his intentions. In retrospect, this turned out to be the master move. He had such a calming influence on Gambhir who played knock of his life. He could also control the situation with some on the spot decision making about run rates, which bowlers to take on which bowlers to let go. This made all the difference in the end.

Empowering the team, leading from the back are becoming buzz words in Corporate world. Leaders who get things done from the team are considered better than those who do it themselves. Becoming disposable is considered to be the best style of management. The lesson for me is, even if that is your ultimate goal, watch out for crisis. In moments for crisis, leading from front is your best options. That increases your chances of success and even if you don’t win, the team respects you more.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

3 Crisis, 3 Responses, One learning

Crisis 1



Hurricane Katrina


The Crisis

Hurricane Katrina one of the deadliest and costliest hurricane hits Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It caused unprecedented damage of residential properties which rendered 300,000 inhabitable.  In these states about 2.4million to  2.5 million power customers reported outages.

The storm crippled thirty-eight emergency call centers,  and knocked out more than 3 million customer phone lines. Broadcast communications were likewise severely affected, as 50 percent of area radio stations and 44 percent of area television stations went off the air. In fact, Hurricane Katrina caused at least ten oil spills, releasing the same quantity of oil as some of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. The

storm surge struck 466 facilities that handle large amounts of dangerous chemicals, thirty-one hazardous waste sites, and sixteen Superfund toxic waste sites, three of which flooded. The surge also destroyed or compromised 170 drinking water facilities and dozens of wastewater treatment facilities.

About 1,800 human lives were lost in this tragedy. The total impact was estimated at $200 billion.

The response

Response from People

Thousands of people left separated, stranded with no access to home. Wide scale looting was reported in the areas struck with disaster. The looters were armed, formed gangs and did not shy away from shooting at police helicopters and rescue workers. Security Management report Group international paper quotes “By August 30, looting had spread throughout the city, often in broad daylight

and in the presence of police officers. Incapacitated by the breakdown of transportation and

communication and overwhelmed in terms of numbers, police officers could do little to stop crime,

and shopkeepers who remained behind were left to defend their property alone. Looters

reportedly included gangs of armed gunmen, and gunfire was heard in various parts of the city.

Along with violent, armed robbery of non-essential valuable goods, the majority of incidents were

of residents simply gathering food, water and other essential commodities from unstaffed grocery

stores. There were also reports that some police officers participated in this same kind of looting”

Government responded by activating a team of 58,000 national guards. Unprecedented amount of aid, food, medical supplies and trained men arrive at the scene. But they have to face a completely different problem. Instead of focusing on searching for survivors they have to protect themselves from attacks of looters. In many instances, looters overpower them hence unprecedented amount of police force needs to be called in. Once situation was under control the aid workers had to go an extra mile to generate confidence among the local population and win their hearts before they could carry on the rescue efforts.

The Aftermath : 2010 census shows that New Orleans which bore the major brunt of the hurricane has reduced to one third its size because of Hurricane Katrina. Two third of the population has migrated elsewhere.





Crisis 2



Mumbai Floods


The Crisis

Unprecedented 994 mm of rain swooped down to Mumbai in less than 24 hours. Antiquated drainage system which is capable of carrying on 25 mm of water per hour was thrown out of gear. The whole city resembled a pond with men, women, vehicles, shops floating around. As every natural disaster, this crisis hit the weakest the hardest. Hundreds and thousands of school children were stranded in schools, office going men and women who  typically travel about 30-50 km to office were stranded in office. Water rushed in low lying areas and in several places water levels in excess of 6 ft were recorded. Several people drowned within the city (unthinkable isn’t it) and the official death toll rose to about 1,100. The entire mass transportation system came to a grinding halt and all roads were clogged with vehicles and standstill traffic jam lasting several hours.

The response

It took several hours for people and government authorities to understand what had happened. In-city flooding is nothing new to Mumbai but the scale was unprecedented. So after sitting in their cars for 4-6 hours without moving an inch people decided to do something about it. Food and shelters were offered to anyone and everyone who was in need. Some houses opened set up a tea-stalls to offer a steaming hot cup of tea to the passer bys for free. Many school children and office going people took shelter with people who they had never known, never met before and in probability may never meet them again. On roads, to beat the rising water levels people formed human chains and waded chest high water to reach home. The eye witnesses say that there was no sense of suffering or victimhood, in fact there was a sense of brotherhood and willingness to support each other.  They were singing songs, cracking jokes and chatting loudly and inviting those who were standing on the sidelines.

Government responded a bit late to the crisis. Basically, most of the people helped themselves, government agencies swung into action to clean up the mess.

Mumbai by no stretch of imagination is a safe city under normal circumstances. But during crisis, very few crimes were reported.  Magically, crisis turned Mumbai into the safest city and epitome of brotherhood.

Aftermath : After a gap of 2 days, which was just enough for the water to recede, life was back to normal. This incident has almost faded from the public memory.  



Crisis 3

Tohoku, Japan


Earthquake, Tsunami resulting in nuclear radiation threat

Enough and more is written about this crisis. It is also well known that the crisis is still not over. Japan government is struggling to contain nuclear radiation, which barely 200km away from one of the most populous cities in the world.

What strikes me is the way the people and government has reacted to the crisis. More than 10,000 human lives are lost but I have not seen one drop of tear in the public media. The Japanese government is accused of not publicizing enough information about the crisis. By whom? Mostly western government or western media. I have not heard a complaint from Japanese people. Media was trying to sensationalize the crisis but they did not get enough ammunition. The videos which all of us saw were striking but we did not hear any Japanese family coming forward to share their woes with the world. The government, the public quietly went about resolving the crisis, reconstruction, get the loved ones home and started gathering food and water. One of my friends son, mere 5 year old, walked for 6 hours from his school to reach home after spending over 24 hours in the school. Did we see any such story on media, almost none.  Almost immediately there was electricity outages in Tokyo but none complained. In spite of being one of the biggest natural catastrophe in recent times, in spite of being under glaring media, this is one of the most under-reported news. The Japanese government and people wanted it that way. People showed complete trust on the government, yet helped themselves out of the crisis. There was complete trust, cooperation to government agencies but almost no expectations nor over dependence.

Hurricane Katrina and Mumbai floods were completely different but what strikes me the people-government response. In Hurricane Katrina it was government Vs people; in Mumbai floods it was people minus government and in Tohoku earthquake it was people AND government. The Japanese have given world several world-class concept. Reaction to this crisis should go down as one more such practice the world can emulate.