Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Musings 180: Compliance and commitment

Monday Musings 180: Compliance and commitment
Modern workplace is a minefield if not a battlefield. Many still find time, space, opportunity, energy and wisdom for happiness and meaning in the nine to no-time schedules. They should be christened as saints, given bravery awards and must be protected under wild life protection act or preservation of rare species, flora and fauna programme.
Our work systems are designed to create the average. Everyone wants the incumbent to follow the job description, the role, the boundaries - no one wants him to stick his neck out, ask uncomfortable and unconventional questions, or follow the non traditional paths. Career choices are made not on the basis of what he truly enjoys, but what would guarantee a basic security of a traditional job. It is nothing short of miracle that so many clones get churned out through the factory shop floor, each one looking like a clone of the other, go about the motions of life, work and career and still hold the pretence of happiness. But scratch the surface a bit and almost everyone wants to do something different, something that gives them more joy, more satisfaction and meaning that what they are doing today. Most will not know what exactly ‘that’ elusive thing is, many just want to escape from the current pigeonhole, and some may actually be fortunate enough to know what they enjoy but cannot make themselves to take the risk of foregoing the security of a well paying job. 
It is not surprising again that such straight jacketed, stuck between walls employees only generate compliance, while organisations need commitment. Actually most organisations take a stated position that they need commitment, while the systems, processes and the culture are designed to elicit compliance. Employees must comply with the boundaries of their role, follow established norms, and work within the broad contours of what is prescribed as ‘role boundaries’. They are also expected to follow instructions, understand orders and obey. When they come up with an idea, it will be ‘value added’ by an over excited supervisor, whether that value is sought or not. Author Malcolm Goldsmith says that such unsolicited value addition “improves the idea by only 5%, but reduces the employee commitment by 50%”, because in his mind, it is no longer his idea but that of the supervisors.
Supervisor behaviour is often the worst culprit, even though there is clear evidence that intellectual lethargy of the employee can be an equal contributor. If a suggestion is given only poorly camouflaged as an order or an expectation, it will generate only compliance. If dissent is considered tantamount to questioning authority, the next time around it will only elicit compliance. If a failed initiative or attempting a new way of doing things is come down upon heavily, the next time around it will foster only compliance. If credit is shared disproportionately or unfairly, then it will encourage compliance. If policies, practices and systems get short-changed at the altar of convenience or whims and fancies, it will promote compliance. Compliance will only do what is absolutely necessary.  It will engender survival mindset. Servility goes hand in hand with compliance, but progress is fuelled by the horse power initiative – the spirit of doing more than necessary, in more ways than known
Commitment is the engine of progress in organisations. Team members and employees do not commit because you want them to commit to your cause. They commit for theirs – and only when they want to. They commit either when it works for them, benefits them; they want to do it for you – which again is a choice whose locus rests with them and not you. Knowing, discovering and triggering your teams commitment is a rare art – but so is leadership.
Just because people have complied does not mean they are committed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

179 Monday Musings: Bhag Milkha Bhag

179 Monday Musings: Bhag Milkha Bhag
It is difficult not to be moved by the story of the iconic Milkha Singh and despite cinematic excesses in the movie ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’(BMB) by the thoughtful Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, it is difficult to come out of the movie without being inspired, in small measure or large. You can treat this musing as a kind of movie review along with how the tale touched.
Partition continues to intrigue me. In story after story, where partition is the central character or in other stories where partition is like the subtext, hanging like a shadow, the bloodiest part of the subcontinent’s history has left individuals, families, communities and nations with memories. The angst and literary expression it has generated is rivalled only with the one generated by the holocaust. However it is clearly not been dissected with as many nuances and perspectives. I guess we are not as fearless and large hearted in dealing with our past and its demons. The impact of the partition on the impressionable young Milkha, despite its barbaric nature has been dealt with sensitivity. One would almost miss the humanity of the maulvi saving Milkha’s childhood friend, raising him as his own and getting him married as an alternative narrative to the mayhem and bloodshed. As the friend quips in a scene, ‘Those times were mad and not people’.
The story to finding his calling in running is beautifully told. Children of disasters must find their calling in something that takes their mind away from the pain, grief and squalor around them; otherwise these have a way of sucking human beings into a bottomless abyss. What better way of dealing with them but to drain your body of every ounce of energy, not leaving enough even to brood, complain and be depressed. Running is a release. Running to the level of having tested your limits, is liberating.
Farhan Akhtar’s chiselled body is a treat to watch. For most middle aged men with mild to more pronounced paunches, his physique is not only a treat to watch but also a matter of envy. He plays the physicality of the celebrated athlete with √©lan, but misses the plot in portraying the punjabiness of the character. He looks out of place in depicting the demeanour, diction and earthliness of a Punjabi youth of the 60’s. He betrays the Bandra-boy roots.
In my view, the crown goes to Divya dutta, who plays the elder sister to the young Milkha. There are two sequences that will make eyes moist. The one where she finds Milkha amongst the survivors and the other when Milkha returns from the army and makes her wear his India blazer. We are told through other accounts that the real Milkha Singh considers the influence of his elder sister as pivotal and through the movie it’s not difficult to see why. If I had the powers I would give Divya two things – this year’s best supporting actress award and second a big hug.
Finally a word on film making. I wish we make more biopics and more sports movies. Our cinematic record sucks on both these counts. Till that time, kudos to Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra for bringing us this story. I hope that it inspires yet another generation, not only to run but how to live.