Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monday Musings 282: Of canine bites and the rest!

Monday Musings 282: Of canine bites and the rest!

The funny just does not stop being funnier by the day. The recent issue of The Economist (no less!) reports ‘’...that the number of canine attacks on postal workers in America climbed from 5581 in 2013 to 6755 in 2016.... In response to such occupational hazards the post office has apparently launched an app on the postal workers hand held scanners that warns of dogs in certain houses... owners of repeat offenders are told to pick up posts a nearby post office....If a loose dog plagues a postman, delivery to an entire neighbourhood can be suspended”

I wonder what an Indian equivalent of this news story that inched its way up from weekly tabloids to the hallowed pages of such a reputed publication would look like!! I wonder what would be a funnier more Indian examples of occupational hazard appear to be. Let me try my hands at some story telling.

  1. The Indian sales association reports that the number of cases of nose breaks on its sales persons because of doors being shut on them has shown an alarming rate of increase. As a safety measure it has recommended its members to observe the following – a) Wear a nose guard at all times while ringing the doorbell. b) Maintain a one feet distance from the doors c) always maintain a lean back posture to be double sure. They have been issued a handbook of red zones in every city where such cases of nose breaks have been reported in the past. A predictive index of what kinds of doors cause the maximum nose breaks is in the making – it is reported that wrought iron doors are the worst perpetrators. The association is firming up its mind to demand a ban on all wrought iron doors with the government. It is also rumoured that they might ask for tax breaks for the treatment cost on such broken noses as business expense.
  2. The Indian doctors particularly the junior doctors and the ones with the government hospitals have been facing the threats of manhandling and physical assaults in the recent past. The governing body responsible for doctor’s education has recommended a mandatory paper on physical education in the MBBS course – with special emphasis on protection against mob violence and ability to run faster than aggrieved relatives. They have also been advised to wear helmets and other sundry elements body armour (either cricketing or paramilitary origins depending upon the history of the hospitals that they are currently serving) during ward rounds, operating theatres and particularly OPDs. An additional certificate in hurdle racing is being mulled to further strengthen the precautionary measures.
  3. The judges of courts usually associated with equanimity and composure are on tenterhooks given the number of shoes that come their way. They have been advised to attend training course of building reflex actions – which will help them avoid leather bases flying objects often worn on the feet. Sometimes one is able to tolerate the shoe but not its smell, but that is an altogether different issue. Being at the receiving end of a shoe is not justice, poetic or otherwise by any stretch of imagination.
  4. Indian sportsperson association has created a special induction programs for all players who play for the country to develop very thick skins. They are being advised to build a 15 feet high walls around their houses to protect themselves against abuses, agitations and other cases of poster burning in case they lose a match, and particularly against one specific country.
  5. Last but not the least, Indian National Maid Association has asked its members to report all cases of mental harassment. The number of cases of work overload, mental torment, threat of violence against maids by very lazy, feudal home owners are on a rise. They have recommended that repeat offenders will be boycotted and in extreme cases the whole housing society will be avoided. There is frenzy and panic in most households that this threat might indeed be executed. Maids in Manhattan or Mumbai are equally revered – and it has been proved beyond doubt that households can function without everyone else but not without maids.

Humour – all around us!!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

monday musings 281 - Politics & Management: different worlds or not exactly !!

Politics & Management: different worlds or not exactly !!

Does the world of political ideologies touch, impact and shape management thoughts of its times?

May be it does – in fathomable and unfathomable ways. Post the two world wars, management got impacted with the flirtations of global political systems with the two poles of political formations – Communism and Capitalism. The fortunes of these two swung with times, with the general opinion in favour or capitalism, beginning the second half of the twentieth century and certainly gaining momentum towards the last two decades.

One can argue that the intellectual and philosophical basis in favour of globalisation emerged from these ideological beliefs. The notions of rationality of capital, freedom of consumer choice, laissez fare and a general bias towards the primacy of individual rights to hold thoughts, respect for his belief, tolerance to dissent, accommodation for alternative narratives etc got further strength with the concurrent rise of democratic and liberal political systems. A lot of what is known as management or leadership literature today was also generated during those momentous 5-7 decades and one finds some patterns in most of them as basic bedrock – around respect for individuals, allowing space for minority thought, co-creation, bottoms up, so on and so forth. Since the world of leadership literature borrows liberally from the research in humanities, we know that organisations are microcosms of what is the society.

Last few years have seen interesting twists and turns in what were considered as truisms for a very long time. The ideological basis for globalisation for instance is shaken. Country after country is flirting with a different shade of political ideology. The left of the centre, liberal, open border-open window space is no longer sacrosanct. The right of all hues – from a moderate right to a more virulent form of it is gaining traction. Barriers to free movement of capital, people are either being erected or at least being talked about like no other time in the recent past.

The question to consider is this – can a mass shift in political ideology spill over to corporations? Does it have the potential to generate a new kind of beliefs around leadership? If the ethos of the liberal left of yore indeed leave an impression on management philosophies and hence played a role in deciding the policies governing workforce management and Leadership practices, then will the movement towards a political right have an equal probability of impacting management thought and leadership behaviour?

Systems thinking believe that everything is related to everything else and a small change in one has the power to create a large impact somewhere else. Political ideologies are just too impactful to ignore – and any tectonic and decisive shift in them can be ignored only to our peril. There are models around behaviours, change, leadership etc that we use, sometimes a tad too literally – forgetting that those may have been influenced by the spirit of the times that they were created. No wonder that too much of echoing and supporting of the mainstream view is called ‘political correctness’.

So here are the bit for reflection – if the mood of the world is gauged through its polity – then what does these shifts indicate about the next few decades about that one question that all organisations continue to ask – ‘’What do our people want?’’

First Published in ''Peoples Matter'' April 2017 issue

monday musings 280 - the retelling of the heretics

Monday Musings: The retelling of the Heretics!

I am told the original meaning of the word ‘Heretic’ is the one gives an alternative opinion. The current usage of the word implies someone who indulges in sacrilege; the black sheep who is foolish and insensitive enough to question the holy cows (is this phrase still allowed or has it been banned; I guess I will soon find out!)

Words change meaning over a period of time and I am sure there are many such words that current usage is way different from what it was. My all time favourite although is the word ‘cute’ which according to the oxford English dictionary has its origins in the 18th century for the short form of thw word acute and in its earliest meanings indicated a sense of shrewed or clever; which is clearly not what I have meant, however scarce such opportunities have been for me to use it for another person and hopefully which is not what the person(s) who have used it on me meant. (my self esteem depends upon this assumption)

However the fluidity of the word heretic is of particular significance because the word is in vogue these days. What we eat can make us heretics. In fact every time the waiter rattles off the dishes in a restaurant these days, I am besieged by the nightmare of choosing something utterly delicious but potentially heretic. My only saving grace is that my all time favourite potato is on no one’s list – not yet at least. I think potato is the most secular of food items. It goes with everything else – with all kinds of cuisine. Irrespective of the class, caste, religion or community or even nationality, potato has been revered by all. Is there an honorary title called the national vegetable yet? .

But I am digressing and that too on a very slippery wicket (the subject of food can make me a fodder for a few these days). I began by wondering that the original meaning of the word heretic is one who offers an alternative opinion. There are two place where becoming a heretic is downright NOT recommended – in front of the spouse after you have returned very late on a weekday without information(read that as permission) and two in front of the boss after you have received your annual performance report. You better not be a heretic here i.e. offer an alternative opinion. I reckon it is better to remain pious and be alive than be a heretic and be roasted!!

In the not so old days, heretics were burned – now days they are trolled! Trolling a politer version of burning because burning heretics is still not legal. Lynching them is perfectly acceptable as a few have discovered at the cost of their lives. The speed with which trolling is acquiring the status of a mass art form, we will need to pass laws to regulate it. Imagine a law which says –Not more than 10 people a day can troll any one person with a unique Aadhar number. The 11th person will have to take permission from ‘Anti – trolling squads’; Or imagine another statue which reads like this – you cannot troll a person with the surname Gandhi more than 180 days a year in the interest of human rights (this particular writer will surely support this statue – my surname which was a matter of pride during schooldays has suddenly become so out of fashion. Sigh!)

See I digressed again – and even more slippery wicket. Let’s stick to Heretics. Why do these so called ‘second opinion givers’ have an opinion to begin with. Isn’t mainstream supposed to have all the answers because they have the collective wisdom of the majority mainstream? I mean if sufficiently large number of people endorse an idea does it not automatically become a breathtakingly brilliant idea? It is like statistics – when sufficiently large data points are collected, errors are normalised. The way to understand this is this – if 1 lakhs idiots propose and support an idea, there is great statistical probability that the idea will get rid of it idioticity (is there such a word?). An even better explanation would be – if a million bulls come together to think, their thinking might ape the levels of humans. I am also recommending that the word ‘’bullshit’’ be treated as compliment hereafter because it has the word bull in it, which is bovine – and in the mood of the times, I think all things bovine are clearly sacred.   

This was the last time I digressed. I think I don’t like the word ‘heretic’. If I keep thinking about what it meant then and what it meant now, and continue to bemoan what has the world come to be, then I may end up searching the meaning of the word ‘lunatic’ – unfortunately which means exactly the same now as it meant then.