Critique of Bangalore TigerSteve Hamm
I got some mail recently about Bangalore Tiger from Prof. Anjani Koomar, a specialist in human resources management form Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow. He gave me an interesting critique of my book, which I have attached below (the e-mail thread between him and me.) One of his points is universal: How to get excellent productivity out of employees without exhausting them. He calls it 8 by 8.
It's "how to help employees to finish all the work within 8 hours at most by 2008 & yet maintain the high quality & fidelity. Help them go beyond the material planes to spiritual domains for more than Maslow's 'self actualiztion', kind of going up from mere IQ to EQ to SQ - all for managerial effectiveness of course. Fortunately, that's possible now, given new advances in self-management & India's very rich culture in this regards, but that's another long story."
I'd like to hear more of this long story, and invite him into Bangalore Tigers as a guest lecturer.
Read on for more from Prof. Koomar:
Here's the thread, in reverse order, starting with my last e-mail from AK:
Sure thing Sir. Do post it by all means. Even share it with Mr. Premji also if you so want.
While adopting best practices has been a safe & age old management practice/ strategy (due to 'mimetic forces'), it suffers from a serious lacuna, namely - what may be 'best' for someone else may not be so for y'self & hence lots of 'hit & trials' are required. This people can ill afford in today's turbulent times where margins of errors are miniscule. I do understand that you're not writing a management compendium & therefore must compliment you more for getting the right nuts & bolts at least.
Pl give me the url of your blog also - would love to see different perspectives.
----- Original Message -----
From: Hamm, Steve
To: Prof. Anjani Koomar
Sent: Thursday, December 28, 2006 6:48 PM
Subject: RE: Bangalore Tiger review
Thanks for your feedback very interesting. Do you mind if I post this on my blog, Bangalore Tigers?
One point I want to make is that my book is an attempt to identify what makes Wipro successful, and, more broadly, what makes the Indian tech services leaders successful. I did not set out to layout a new abstracted framework for corporate management. Wipro and the others pick and chose from a wide variety of best practices from companies around the world. Ultimately, I believe the Wipro Way will mature into a more cohesive management framework, but it’s not there yet.
From: Prof. Anjani Koomar [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 28, 2006 3:01 AM
To: Hamm, Steve
Subject: Bangalore Tiger review
I finally managed to get some time to finish your book afterall. It's racy stuff in a very good chatty style & that you could do it by interviewing merely 75 people out of some 60 K+ just shows your well honed journalistic sense/ acumen. Congratulations.
I guess you wrote for the educated, yet lay, public & the book will positively do well. It should also become a good marketing/ publicity tool for Wipro, just like their Web Seminars. However, as a student of Management, specially of the Organization Design/ Strategic HRM perspectives, it could've been made far richer if some well researched generic models of managerial excellence could've been used to structure/ weave the presentation. I'm enclosing 2 (not my own) for your ready references though obviously there are many more & require lot more micro planning.
I did make a group of my students to read the book & make a class presentation linking it to the management theory & they found/ felt the same lacuna. A pantheon of good practices are there but in bits & pieces. Missing is a good meta-framework which can be easily understood, imbibed for replication?* Pearls are there but the central thread is missing & hence a beautiful necklace is not being formed. If they felt the pinch mentioned above, one can imagine what'd happen to common folks/ managers/ employees in the trenches.
Having worked in corporate world for some 30 years (brief background enclosed), there is another major problem companies are facing but not realizing - almost like sitting on a smoldering powder keg. Somewhere I'd written "If necessity is the mother of invention, competition must've fathered Marketing & Globalization is now grand-siring HRM.' People/ Corporates do want a great HRM System, even mimic the best practices from the leaders, but, few know how to get the warps & wefts exactly right. As Jac Fitz-enz says it beautifully, men are the only live assets, rest are all inert.
However, the ground reality still remains that the employees are being de-humanized in such a corporate world as you showed by the work day of Makarand Teje on pages 245/6. I've done it myself over extended periods & post ipso facto, it scares the be-jesus out of me as it's inhuman to force the employee apart from his family, his roots. Deciding 'what' is the easy part, getting 'how' right is the Gordian knot. Atlas would shrug & soon, a la Ayn Rand & that would be a major catastrophe in the critical domain of talent management. The almost prophetic words of Dee Hoc, of Visa fame, haunt me in this regards, (1999) “The Industrial Age, hierarchical, command-and-control institutions that, over the past four hundred years, have grown to dominate our commercial, political, and social lives are increasingly irrelevant in the face of exploding diversity and complexity of society worldwide. They are failing, not only in the sense of collapse, but in the more common and pernicious form - organizations increasingly unable to achieve the purpose for which they were created, yet continuing to expand as they devour resources, decimate the earth, and demean humanity.” Emphasis is mine.
Corporate attrition, managerial burn-outs, work - home life balance, knowledge obsolescence et al are symptoms of this deep-rooted disease which must be tackled at war footing if you want the excellence journey to continue. Companies can't survive on the blood & gore of employees anymore or else it'd be a pyrrhic victory at best. Moreover, the balance of power has shifted from employers to employees as Indian IT & other high tech industries have realized to their costs. Beyond a certain point, people go beyond the mere 'material gains' to 'existential questions' like 'Who am I? Why was I born? Why this human form & not a cockroach for example? What's the main purpose of my life?' I know it first hand as I've gone through the entire gamut (maybe that's one reason why I'm in academe right now & still exploring).
The real audacious challenge for companies would now be to go far beyond Vivek Paul's '4 by 4' to what I call '8 by 8' i.e. how to help employees to finish all the work within 8 hours at most by 2008 & yet maintain the high quality & fidelity. Help them go beyond the material planes to spiritual domains for more than Maslow's 'self actualiztion', kind of going up from mere IQ to EQ to SQ - all for managerial effectiveness of course. Fortunately, that's possible now, given new advances in self-management & India's very rich culture in this regards, but that's another long story.
I don't know why I'm bending your ears, giving unsolicited advice, but somehow felt that having done this much of work, you'd be kind of interested to take it further - write a sequel perhaps? Partly also because your book originally came to me for a review so review I must, I guess.
*As you may be knowing, these are razor sharp guys, crème da la crème of Indian student-hood. This year e.g. more than top 200,000 students from all over India are vying for entry into these MBA programs at IIMs but only 1700 or so wd. finally make it through what is known as the toughest exam on this planet, GMAT, GRE included. I think there was an article on this from your magazine only, if I recall right. Just to put in the proper perspective, even IITians find it very hard to crack it & very few make it from that lot.