The Legend of Bagger Vance, State Bank of India and Organisational Transformation
How do you link a film, a change management program and Bhagavad-Gita to address people issues in transforming an organisation? Mr Om Prakash Bhatt has done this imaginatively in transforming the State Bank of India [SBI].
The April 2009 issue of McKinsey’s Quarterly carries an interesting article ‘Remaking of a Government Owned Giant: An Interview with the Chairman of State Bank of India’. As the name suggests, the interview is about transformation of the SBI and engagement of its 200,000 employees in it.
The transformation stories have a very familiar script. It is about sliding performance, lurking fears and dangers on business front, launch of a change management program [‘Parivartan’ in this case; I wonder why change initiatives carry Sanskrit names so often] and lastly a recognition [making it a Fortune 500 organisation].
The interesting part is the use of a metaphor of a ‘Golfer who has lost his swing’ to communicate once-successful-but-now-underperforming, ‘below par’ performing organisation. To quote Mr Om Prakash Bhatt, Chairman, ‘A golfer’s swing is not an intellectual exercise. It demands harmony of your entire being: heart, mind and body. If you lose your swing, it’s a challenge to find it again, but if you do, you can be as good as or better than you were before.’
It is indeed a very imaginative use of the metaphor and the film The Legend of Bagger Vance. It is about two persons who together win a game from a hopeless position. The situation may be impossible, but it is only impossible if you think and believe it to be so. Mr Om Prakash Bhatt screened the film ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ which is based on Steven Pressfield’s novel for SBI employees as a part of his communication exercise. The author, Steven Pressfield, has based it on Bhagavad-Gita! A book authored by Steven Rosen ‘Gita on the Green: The Mystical Tradition’ compares the stories and messages of Bhagavad-Gita and The Legend of Bagger Vance. The name Bagger Vance is a deliberate take on the word ‘Bhagwan’ as one will readily see, the phonetic resemblance is deliberate.
People have always wondered, and never stopped wondering, the link between the action and the consequence. People who undergo very emotional experiences, and there is no dearth of those in a change management program of the kind we are discussing, have often tried to find an answer to ‘why me?’ kind of questions. Mr Om Prakash Bhatt, Chairman of SBI imaginatively readied his people not only for higher performance but also for helping search answers to their problems and concerns.
And that is very splendid work indeed! Congratulations.
The use of metaphors and the imaginative weaving of multiple angles to the growth story was indeed an interesting read sir !
No wonder a staid PSU bank is becoming the nimble behemoth of sorts !
Splendid post sir !
Is this a case of numbers speaking more than people ? How is success judged at such rarified top levels ?
One welcomes the linking of an overall systems view, sports and nishkaam karma.
I just read the entire interview. Nowhere, does anyone talk about having a get together /workshop/even a day long interaction thing for customers of the bank. That would have given the bank more points to think about. But maybe the results are not quantifiable, and so untranslatable as , say, progress.
Somehow what the chairman claims about employees, and my experience after being their customer for 38 years simply does not match.
Why does this remind me of the current ruling party ads /Jai ho/India Shining/Mayawati ads on TV ? And is the timing of the interview significant ?
Actually, I started off congratulating you on this interesting blog, and then my cynicsm about the bank overtook that.
Great beginning to a new blog on a new subject…
Best wishes and congratulations !
Had posted a comment yesterday, which apparently did not register!
Anyway, here’s a summary: Transformation of the behemoth that SBI is will take much more than the will / inclination of a single person. We have come to expect lackadaisical snobbery from the PSU employees. To expect them to accept a new way is like expecting India to win at cricket. You are always going to be surprised with the results! 🙂
Good that you started blog devoted the subject of HR