Monday, December 21, 2009

INDIANOIL-Vigilance in management

In the year 2003, before I retired, I wrote this article when vigilance week was being celebrated.

What do I understand by vigilance and corporate growth? The subject confused me. With a little knowledge of Internet that I had, to my surprise I found a number of sites on the subject. Every site talked about vigilant management. Not the vigilance as it is commonly understood. And the address of Mr.Vittal to IOC is also a site on the net, which tallies with common understanding of vigilance in management.

The correct understanding of vigilance in management is being vigilant, be it the management of finance, raw material, human resource, machinery and most importantly time. If this concept is accepted, vigilance is one important component of a manager. A manager without this component is no manager. If function of a manager were compared to human anatomy, which organ would you think would be vigilance? I leave this question unanswered.

Managers, who strictly observe vigilance in the commonly understood sense of the word, tend to violate the same, which the non-discerning eye does not notice. To give a commonplace example, touring. It is commonplace to see managers touring where touring is not really needed. We have examples of managers visiting each and every distributor, dealer all over the state, which is primarily a function of a field officer. To top it they complain they have no time for their family. This is where the vigilant time management is lacking. No one can manage time; one has to manage oneself within the time frame. Vigilance in time management (misnomer) requires one to audit one's time spent. Making a time chart can do this exercise. One has to keep an account of time spent against the time scheduled. This done for a week or so will give an insight into one's time management. The next step is to budget one's time. Please remember time is as important as finance. We all have seen how a schedule is observed more in breach. Call to mind any programme that you attended. There is always an agenda, earmarking time. To begin with the programme does not begin on time. Every one of us knows all rest. I go back in time to my college days. Sociology was one of my subjects of study and conflict of roles was an important topic. That was the time when a film by name Anuradha, with Balraj Sahni and Leela Naidu in the cast was released. This film dealt with the same subject of conflict of roles. A Doctor engrossed in his medical practice totally forgets his role as a husband. Of course as it happens in films the Doctor realizes his mismanagement of time which resulted in his wife's frustrations. We have several roles to play. A successful man is one who budgets his time for each role and keeps auditing it. Think of a man who rises to the top of the ladder of one role and is on the lowest rung in rest of the roles. That is lop-sided.

Talking of time it is not out of place to discuss how top level enjoy performing lower level functions. I have known a GM of our region personally allocating flats for officers. The function of manager administration was just to give the GM details of availability of vacant flats and the applications of the officers. GM had time to do this job! This type of management is considered involved management by the beneficiaries of the system. Innumerable examples of this type can be cited. These are the things that occupy the precious time of our top level.

Let us take finance. There are so many areas to be vigilant in finance. Vigilant does not mean maneuvering to bypass commonly understood vigilance. It is all about controllable expenditure. Many are telephone happy. There was a manager in Vizag Terminal who was very rarely found not on telephone. If you wanted to talk to him you would be just sitting before him, he being continuously on phone, making one call after another. We found it easier to communicate with him if we contacted him on intercom. What can be communicated in 2 minutes is explained in 10 minutes. Brevity results from clarity of thought. Communication is a skill every manager should possess. It is indirectly linked to management of finance. Travel is another most controllable aspect. I have already dealt with this. I also wonder how finance concurs expenditure on various parties, which are internal.

We have given precious space for ATM booths for ICICI bank in several ROs in Hyderabad at very nominal rent ranging between Rs.6000/- to Rs.10000/-. I am aware of the concept of allied selling, which is one of the major retail factors. My query in an SMC was how these ATMs are helpful to us. But, unfortunately our GM did not want any debate on the subject. I was almost made to feel my query was stupid. I had similar experience again during SMC on an earlier occasion. That time when the discussion was about handing over of Renigunta depot site back to Rlys, I suggested we do not pay the rental as the delay in handing over was because Rlys requested for infrastructure free of cost. This is where vigilant finance comes into picture.

We have today quite a few products of management schools. Good. We need them. But all that they are used for is statistics. Statistics is a base for any decision-making. It is not an end in itself. So much of statistical analysis is churned out. Various permutations and combinations are used. Looked at from all available angles. It remains a monument. The products of management schools should be used for achievements and not just for super power point presentations before dignitaries whose visits are quite common. I covered it in the earlier portion. Path is important but the function of the path is to lead to destination.

We Indians are very receptive to new ideas. We accept all modern management principles as long as we are in classrooms. Away from classrooms, in real work situations we do exactly opposite of what we appreciate in classrooms. If at least 10% of what is so laboriously learnt in management schools is put to practice it will make a difference.

In order to accept and practice modern concepts unlearning is the first step. And unlearning has to be at the top as well as the bottom levels of management hierarchy. Faster the top unlearns lesser is the need for lower levels to unlearn.

Let us wish ourselves good luck. I do not really believe in luck. I quote from the Quran -
“ Allah does not alter the state of a people until they themselves make a move to change it.” (13:11)

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