Sunday, August 21, 2016

What do we here?

It all started as a routine meeting of all faculty. The second fortnight of March it was.

Yes. You guessed it right. Whenever we had no other work, 
we were called to attention. 

we meet and discuss.

On that day as we , i mean, all faculty, met at the spacious hall of our Principal ,  the meeting wore an air of expectation.

Yes. A dignitary from CO was visiting our centre to interact with all faculty.  The boss said he expected the dignitary to have a didactic  discussion with every faculty too.
Why should it be like that ? asked an ever inquisitive friend..
"I wish you better put this the question straight to him." said our boss.

The meeting was to take place at 2.30 p.m.  It is was already 3.00 p.m. but yet the visiting dignitary was not in sight.  Nor was there was any message from him.

A couple of our friends (faculty) appeared tense.  To them this meeting appeared to be more than a routine. They were, as we knew, in the reckoning for promotion to a higher cadre.  A third one was also similarly placed but never revealed so much interest in the matter of promotions. To him life at the centre was a comfort zone and possibly he was enjoying it.  A promotion may entail in a shift which disturbance he could hardly afford to face at this age.

In any case, everyone knew that basis of promotion to a higher cadre at least DMs and above were based mostly on perceptions rather than the usually talked about CRs.

I knew the dignitary even before. He was a highly placed marketing man during his tenure here at chennai.

Much as I would convince my colleagues to treat this meet as another one, the tense face my colleagues sported could hardly be camouflaged.

At last the dignitary came, and the meeting started.

With a brief self introduction  by each faculty (was it seven or eight ?) being over, the dignitary started addressing us.

A few minutes passed.  A few faculty listened with rapt attention, with their eyes half closed. Dreaming or dozing I did not verify.  A couple of others possibly thought that he was not telling anything which we were not ourselves conveying in our class rooms. 

Then suddenly there was a pause.

His  silence made us wake up.  In measured tone 
he aired a question.

 "how do faculty  feel being in a training environment, after having been in the marketing area ? "

In 80s and 90s, officers from the side of sales were prone to feel embarrassed on a posting to Training Centres. Is that feeling of being ambushed still lurks nowadays   among sales-side officers ? I do not know.  For them  a posting as a faculty in the Training Centres was perceived as a punishment !! 

I do remember during the days of my induction training , a co-participant at MDC, who had served as  Senior DM in charge of some Division in Gujarat, could not swallow the posting which he said shocked him especially after a brilliant performance. I remember he even  dared to air his protest at the inaugural day in front of MD.

Back to the story.

Responses to the query were on expected lines.   

"Quarantine leave" one said. 

Another said that he enjoyed as he could relate himself with sales force from a different linguistic area.  He learnt to enjoy chakka pradhaman, and learnt Malayalam. Said, " It would help me if I were to get posted  as SDM at Trivandrum, you know. "

A third one philosophically suggested that "ups and downs always happens in life - you know".

The dignitary turned his eye on faculty who belonged to other shades,their  backgrounds assorted . Fellows of Insurance Studies, a half (not half-baked) Actuary, a CA, a legal man , and a couple who rose from ranks. not DROs.

"What do we do here ?"  He put it straight.

There was a dry laughter amidst all.

Several replies must have come to their minds they carefully chose not to convert as words such as:

"chatting", "lecturing" "group dining"  "shepherding trainees"

One faculty came forward to define his role. Possibly remembered the sentence he read at MDC. 

 "The trainer's job at the Training Centre is to enhance and elevate the levels of skill and knowledge,  shape , mould and motivate the trainee officers to develop the right type of attitude based on their own aptitude. In short, it is to inform , perform and reform."

" He is in full form."A neighbour of mine hissed in my ears: 

"you are too technical. Make it straight. More simple ?" the dignitary suggested. 

"Sir ! We impart training on rules and regulations, in fact we explain the basis of several CO circulars . You know - 'to read and understand these manuals our executives  do not have enough time in their working environment.'  So we teach. "

"You are beating about the bush. " laughed the dignitary. 

Putting Emphasis on the word, 'teach' 
he asked: 

"Do we really teach here ?" 

So teasing , short of annoying, was his question, that faculty possibly had no answer.

A friend of mine about to retire hissed:  "We preach also."

He turned at me.

I said : " I learn "

"what ? you mean  the ALITER CONCEPT  ! "   
After a pause, I replied, "Yes Sir. I learn here to unlearn."

Another "What " from the CO man.

"In fact, I see this as an opportunity to unlearn everything I have learnt in the last thirty three years or so. When I interact with men and women who assemble here, I feel I have more things to learn from them than I have to give them."

My colleagues looked at me. Our own boss appeared visibly perplexed. He was possibly wondering whether  any chance of being promoted at all in the rest of my career,I had already lost.   In any case,little it mattered to him as  he always knew me as one incorrigible.

"So you say you have begun shaping yourself !" 

"In a way. yes. the period one spends here should enable one to develop a vision not only for oneself but for the organisation too.  "

"Will u develop that idea ?"

"The trainees who come here do exhibit a lot of ideas creative. By interacting and working with them, though for a limited period, it is possible to distance ourselves from our past ways of doing  jobs and find new routes for higher performances."

"You say then you are not teaching here."

"Possibly yes,if you assign a conventional meaning with the word. In fact,   I relate with those who come, pose before them a few situations and just observe. Our job, as i feel, is to create an environment where they could visualise and  set new goals for themselves  in the organisation."

you feel it is worth ! you feel it is necessary?"

 Sir ! I have always a conviction, that if men are enabled to design their jobs, they exert and excel. Their contribution to  the organisation also reaches higher levels.  "

"Where are you then......? "

"you may call us a catalyst in the  process . And in the process,  I see I also grow.  I believe when I go from here, I shall be a transformed person."

The CO dignitary looked at my boss. Said, "it depends ."

"Why not we have a tea-break ! " he suggested.

The snacks had come by that time. Biscuits, fried  cashew nuts,, somosa and tea.

What ! Is there an alarm bell ringing?

  I wake up.

Getting composed.

At this old age, i am already 74 +, events of past do come as dreams

But how come !  All the faces of my close dear friends and equally their voices !!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not a Story

The Conference had just commenced.

The hall was brimming with smiling faces of heads of Branches, a good many waiting to be patted on the back by the highest dignitary.  The Office as a whole has done indeed well in reaching the targets set by the highest office.

Sitting in the dais was the visiting dignitary from the highest office of the land. On both sides flanking were the in charge of Local Divisional office and  the marketing man in charge of selling and servicing of products .

A ritual welcome was followed by a shower of garlands and shawls for the dignitary.

The compere announced as the next item in the agenda "Report by Manager Marketing ."

For the next fifteen minutes, the hall heard beams of figures and plethora of statistics that poured all sweet honey into the ears of all participants.

Hardly the report was finished, thunderous applause followed.

The visiting dignitary asked for the mike.

"A very Good Morning to everyone of you." 

An applause followed.

"I am indeed pleased what your Team has done in the last half year . I am proud of you"

Again another applause.

"Let me congratulate all of you. But, at  the same time, I have a question in my mind."
I would better ask it straight to my friend who presented the report.
I am sure he would answer my query in all earnestness.

Yes. Sir, said the Officer who presented the report, with an air of expectation.

I have a feeling that the report speaks about  what others did.
What did you do ?

The straight question from the visiting dignitary put that Officer - second-in-command - who had just finished reading his report , in a fix. Frankly it appeared he did not quite understand what the dignitary meant.

It looked and sounded too as a  direct punch from the opponent in a Boxing Match..

Heads of Branches looked bewildered.  For years this was the practice.  Business performance statistics of the current half year used to be collated,  matched with the annual target, compared with corresponding previous  year's  figures, policy wise, sum assured wise, branch wise, dev.officers wise, agents wise, absolute number wise, percentage-wise.

The visiting dignitary however appeared to think otherwise.

"It is all Ok. All your  statistics Ok. You all deserve highest praise. No doubt about it.  But they tell me nothing about your interactions with the field force, their strengths, their weaknesses, their areas of concern, their opportunities.particularly when competitors have entered into their market."

"Sir, it is our usual practice only to supply our figures.which reveal our performance........"

"Collecting and analysing figures is fine. But is it not  the job of a statistician.  ?"

"Yes Sir."

"My good friend ! In the wake of competition, should we not be listening to our field force as to how best we compete with others,? Should we not be training them as to how they should be able to convince prospects of our products ? On how to face  objections from the prospects who interact with agents from other companies too?"

"yes. sir."

"Have we done any study as to how best our competitors have been able to erode into our usual  market share ?"

"No Sir."

"Have we done at the local level any study as to which of the products of the competing companies score over our products ? Precisely, what are our deficiencies where we fail when compared to the companies who compete with us ?  Is the deficiency related to the product or the people who communicate with prospects?  Any study done? "

"No Sir."

"May I know why we have not started thinking in these lines? As marketing people, why is it that we are not keeping our antenna wide open ?"

"Sir, honestly speaking, there is no circular from C.O. in this regard."

There was a lull.

And  that was understandable.

We used to do only
when we felt a
whack on our heads.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


In the Four Decades I had the fun and equally privilege of working and living with those who had been, like me, hired by the organisation to do odd jobs , which they now-a-days call multi-tasking staff, I had come across men and women of unmatched calibre and prowess.

In late 60s and early 70s, they were called Jay Os.

I am not talking of their knowledge, skill or attitude which they must have had, as it is was on that basis perhaps, they had been placed in their posts.

It is on the other aspect of their personality which they had carefully built around themselves I was attracted to.

A few among them talked a lot when they were sure their boss was not around.

But a few were really bold enough .Never lost any chance to prove their mettle. Witty, humorous as they were, they thrilled and enlivened the environment. . Never however hurt anyone in the process.
I mean never hit anyone below their belt.

I have heard the story of one such great humorists.  What I narrate I am damn sure really happened, people close to me have confirmed.

Let me begin narrating the story.

The beautiful palatious Office at Delhi had then only sprung up.  And it was the privilege of Chairman to  inaugurate it.

The function started with gay and galore and with sweets and pleasantries as it ended, the Chairman wanted to walk around the beautiful building, to see for himself the structural beauty.

The pavements  lined with flowery green bushes of various hues as he walked along with our great friend were smelling pleasant.  Of Course, the head of the office and a few others were also accompanying.

Suddenly as if struck by some lightning the Chairman stopped at a point. Staring  at a point on the wall of the structure, with a grim face, short of shrieking,  he said loudly:

"Oh ! What is it ?There are some cracks visible from outside !"

As everyone was turning their faces towards the Chief Engineer who was seen managing to say  a word or two,

my good friend intervened.

With all the politeness in his command, he said:

"  Sir ! there are some cracks inside also. "

There were bursts of laughter all around.
Laughter over, back to serious business,

"It's only a wall painting overdone, Sir ! With another scratch and  coat, it will be OK."  murmured the officer in charge of buildings.

"Is it ? I now understand. Anything you overdo, will crack, of course, "


Even many years thereafter, around 30 or more, people were still remembering this episode.
Once he came to visit our centre to interact with us and indeed to introduce his new just-published book.I forgot the title of the book, but sure the theme of the book rested on the value of customers. (We had by that time started taking high of customers, you know! )  
I think he was then already retired, but never wore a tired look.

I was sorry , to be honest, I was never given a 5-minute even tete to have a private chat with him,   I lost an opportunity to tell  him how badly we need a shade of his  tribe in our midst. .


(A  VIP ,of my days, (near my residence, nowadays he calls himself VP) hisses that he knows this hilarious character).Says,
he is CM.

Do you know him !

When people laugh at others,
this gentleman taught us
to laugh at ourselves.

Read his books.
The cartoons there say a lot.

have  you read his  article  on THE ABCD OF EMOTIONS. ?
The article starts with this sentence:

"Men and women are pulled and pushed by reason on the one hand and emotion on the other." 


To conclude,

not unoften, there is only one situation. one issue.

But the men and women who are witness to the situation, who face the issue,
interpret it and arrive at conclusions based  on their own belief systems.

And that is inevitable.