How I learnt management from everybody

I never wandered into a Business School, never took on the CAT (Common Admission Test- Entrance exam to gain entry into an MBA program into the top B-Schools in India), let alone bell it, never considered studying management from B-Schools abroad. Yet, I am a self-acclaimed manager, just like all of you. Still wondering and befuddled? My idea of ‘management’ is highly unorthodox and I needed some re-assurance that I wasn’t all that blasted from hell for not having been exposed to formal ‘management education’. I have never been able to wrap my head around the concept of learning the importance of time or deadlines from a professor in a classroom. You have been doing this and learning the importance of various things while growing up, time being factored into them. A few slip-ups in an exam would teach you lessons of time management, planning, preparation and execution all together! The concept of taught management still eludes me and makes me wonder how we imbibe management principles from everybody around us.

Does the concept of making checklists excite you, make you feel you have control over things? Do you believe that in order to multi-task you need a detailed plan and a minute-by-minute strategy to get you over the compulsive need to have discipline and control, for the fear of things turning topsy-turvy? Do you feel the excruciatingly detailed need to organise the tiniest of details that might be your paranoid version of how your event might get sabotaged? Did you consider the scenario where the watchman had dozed off and the street dog parades its way into the party and bites your uncle’s second cousin? It is one thing to foresee such an implausible scenario, but it is completely something else to actually be prepared for such a circumstance. There have been works that describe how management principles can be derived from famous works of epics. One such example would be how the Mahabharata served as a Corporate dictum even in the then times of mythological presence. Another example would be how the principles of the famed Chanakya applied ‘management’ qualities and stunned the people around him. These principles are still valid for the neck-to-neck of the corporate world. However, there is always a distinction between personal and professional life. You cannot apply a uniform strategy for a subordinate officer as well as your 4-year old daughter who’s throwing tantrums in the toy store demanding the latest Barbie in the stores. There have been studies on Management in everyday life that throw light on these aspects of our life.

I want to talk about the small things in our life that we encounter. It may be planning to reach the bus stop in advance to catch the next bus because you know you’ve let your usual bus go because you woke up late. It’s about thinking on the spot for solutions that may seem far from ideal at the moment. I am usually lazy and a procrastinator and obviously I don’t rise from my blessed couch until the very last minute. However, I do like to keep my things in order, which means all the while I was sitting on my couch I would have been running the entire sequence in my head because my hands and legs are mere puppets of my hyperactive brain. I believe that It is always important to first organise your head-space before propelling to change the world at large. We have been unknowingly taught management right from our very childhood. The organisation taught in school, which books to bring, which to not, what homework is all about and how it helps your grades (it’s nothing but a repetitive preparation to help you remember in the exam! We’re not all born with an eidetic memory!) is all part of the long arm of management that we rave about.

My grandmother has no fancy degree and no Shakespearean English, yet I consider her as one of the most dynamic women I have ever seen in my life. I can’t come to possibly count the number of times she has inspired us and guided the ‘educated’ us to better paths. I’d like to quote this particular instance. We were organising this function at home which required an elaborate menu consisting of technically weighed recipes which had to be cooked to precision. The materials required for the food to be prepared was exhaustively analysed and the number of guests were counted taking into account all possibilities, so as to include surprises as well. A comprehensive list was prepared and we took it to our usual vendor who would give us a good discount without compromising on the quality (negotiation). We had two lady cooks from two different areas and backgrounds to help us with this mammoth task. Our kitchen (organisation) was a tad bit smaller than what we would have liked to have. The raw materials for the preparation (resources) were sufficient, but had to be shared in order to use them effectively, in fact even rationed. The two lady cooks (employees) would occasionally bicker about why she couldn’t get the better resources or the more challenging dish to prepare (the project). Grandma, who also had taken up some meaty work (as is the duty of a responsible manager) was quietly observing this verbal exchange for a while. After a while, she got down to a detailed delegation of the tasks at hand. She tried to identify their strengths and weaknesses based on the speed and efficacy by which they worked and went about the process of deputing the jobs based on her assessment of their skills. She had to fill up for where the work lagged, and got down to the task of working with them. She ensured that they used similar resources and had a common vision in mind- the delightful faces of all the guests who’d arrived who were amazed at the food they’d eaten that day. The incentive was the compliments grandma showered on them, their work and their family (owing to the long association she shares with each). It was not long until a positive atmosphere resonated in the kitchen and the two ladies got along extremely well, singing mellifluous songs, charging the food with their alacrity and worked determinedly with a renewed zeal. The takeaway message was that teamwork always wins. As expected, the meal was a great success and the entire family (the Board) heaped praises on the chefs and quite obviously, grandma.

I’m sure this relates to the famed definition given by Henri Fayol in his book “Industrial and General Administration” which quotes as follows:

“To manage is to forecast and to plan, to organise, to command, to co-ordinate and to control.

I have often seen my parents pore over the most minuscule of elements in a particular scenario and plan ahead to divert what they consider a road-block to achieving their goals. I’m sure it is a common phenomena, and not something that’s too peculiar to all of you. “Better to be safe than sorry” is the maxim most of us live by. We find it hard to accept people who are sloppy with time and who think that there is always redemption at the end of the road. The hard reality we are often pressed with is that, redemption doesn’t wait for you; you redeem yourself. Planning is the first step to any approach and we always have to start with what we have. My friend travels 3-4 hours to and fro to reach his work-place. He knows that even a minute’s delay will cause him to miss the train, which is but the starting point to his journey filled with a 5-minute shared auto-rickshaw ride following another 10 minute walk to his office. He knows the cost of his time, an entire day’s salary.

We all plan and try to execute with the available resources, because that is what Management is all about. If we have to catch the 6 am flight, we have to be packed at least by 8 pm the previous night so that dinner would be at 9 pm and you would get at least 7 hours of good sleep before you wake up at 4 am and get on with your day. There is a thin line between choosing to be a manager and choosing to be an employee. Even a person who does nothing all day, but begs for alms would know and understand by practise and trial and error as to who frequents his ‘spot’ and what they usually bring for him. That spurs him to stay alert and manage his other activities to ensure his sustenance.

There is no good taste or bad taste in this world, everything is circumstantial. It is what we choose to make of the circumstance that matters. Hold your head high, because you deserve credit for managing the most difficult organism ever created- You!

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21 thoughts on “How I learnt management from everybody

  1. That was a good read – I’ve always had similar ideas about “management education” and how it seemed like a lot of it was realizing the essentials of common sense and finding how to work best with another person/team.
    (But then again, B school folks sure can /talk/)

    1. Thank you Laavanya 🙂 Oh yes we’ll give the B-Schoolers that- communication and presentation 😀 However, the underlying point is it’s always substance over form. Communication is of no use if we don’t have our basics straightened out 🙂

  2. I’m waiting for the age when cooking schools (well, make it pottery school if that’s your taste) will be the most coveted cos every other Rajesh, Suresh and Ramesh is getting into one. Until then, this post validates a monkey-see-donkey-dance world. 🙂

    1. Hahaha. Rajesh, Suresh and Ramesh – I fell off my couch laughing at that one and the best part is I really can roll! 😀 I love your oosi-in-banana punches. Go get ’em, girl! 🙂

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