This is the third and concluding partof the speech. I will await your comments….
In fact Sapre’s life takes me to the third point. We invest so little in development of ourselves is what I have mentioned earlier. But we invest so little in development of our employees too. I am not referring to the number of training programs and training man-days and training budget. I am sure that the budget runs in crores of rupees and the other figures are impressive as well.
But we accept in the heart of our hearts that a worker will not make a good white collar employee. So we place a limitation on our own work of developing people.
Let me go back to GN Sapre. Do you know that Sapre could not speak till he was eight, he started speaking only then, and that he did not attend any school till he was ten? And Sapre later in life develops a way of raising and teaching deep philosophical issues, writes a book on work ethic that is a best seller and does good work at Godrej. How did this change happen? It was perhaps easy to write off Sapre. Somebody unknown must have been responsible for making him reflect on his experience. And somebody must have given him new experience.
At the organisation where I worked, we selected workers for training as Punch operators. That was the IT technology then. Eventually some moved up to work as computer operators – we used to have big mainframes then that required operators. We did not have any problems about their output. The problem was with other employees of our systems department. They branded them as workers who have made it to staff, very often did not mix with them at lunch, the subtle differentiation was there to feel. We had problems in ensuring integration. I must confess I did not have skill to do it though the problem was evident. Today techniques are available to bring together people, table the issues and integrate. These skills are available at junior level too.
But are we experimenting enough? In a meeting on employability at Tata Institute of Social Sciences I learnt that children of farmers are joining Retail industry. They get trained for the service industry. This I am told is a big leap. Typically people have joined manufacturing from agriculture and then the next generation has moved to service industry. But here in our country a revolution is happening. Can we plan a mini revolution within our industry by moving some blue collar workers to white collar jobs?
What comes in the way today is not the paucity of skill, it is paucity of will. We have standards of competency at each level and we measure it before placing people on the job. We ask ourselves can he make it to executive cadre while recruiting while collar workers! I believe developing people is an agenda that needs to be understood differently. And we must ask ourselves a question: “ Are we subserving system or are we making system subserve us.”
I would suggest that this is the time to break some rules and make a difference.
I would now like to talk about making change happen in industry. In the last two decades changes in employee productivity have come through painful process. In fact I always believed that it you wish to bring about a major change in industry it required turbulence. The evidence of step jump in employee productivity as a result of industrial strife was unbelievably high.
When I worked at the factory, we were making twenty thousand tonnes with over 900 workers and 300 staff. Today they make thirty thousand tonnes with two hundred workers and about eighty staff. This has happened largely as a result of a strike at least to the extent of 50%.
But I now realise that it was wrong on my part to believe so. Fritjof Capra’s writing clarifies thinking, he says:
“A machine can be controlled; a living system can only be disturbed. In other words, organisations cannot be controlled through direct interventions, but they can be influenced by giving impulses rather than instructions. To change a conventional style of management requires a shift in perception that is anything but easy, but it also brings great rewards. Working with the processes inherent in living systems means that we do not need to spend a lot of energy to move an organisation. There is no need to push, pull or bully it to make it change. Force or energy are not the issue; the issue is meaning. Meaningful disturbances will get the organisation’s attention and will trigger structural changes.”
In this era when employees are showing greater predisposition to change, can we bring about changes in unobtrusive way is the question. This admittedly is not easy. But do we have will and skill to impart meaningful disturbances?
Therefore what is important is our ability to communicate and influence. Knowledge of law is important because we can influence people with it. I think increasingly higher demands will be placed on this skill during your career.
The answer, admittedly the simplest one, is that we need to be in a learning mode all the time in our career; I would say as long as we live. It is for this reason that HR Meets are important to me. They promote learning, exchange of views. But there is one thing I would like to caution all of you against. Instead of telling the message directly I would rather read out a passage from Osho’s book that I like so much. Osho was asked to speak on the difference between ordinariness and mediocrity. This is what he said: [I quote]
“Mediocrity is the general state of humanity as it is. It is a retarded-ness of intelligence. Nobody wants you to be intelligent, because the more intelligent you are, the more difficult it is to exploit you. Every vested interest wants you to be mediocre. And to keep the mediocre person mediocre, a strange thing has to be put in to his mind: that he is extraordinary.
The society in so many ways gives people the feeling of being extraordinary. Hence it is difficult to find a person who does not deep down believe that he is special, the only begotten son of God. He may not say so, because he knows what happens if you say you are the only begotten son of God. Then crucifixion is certain, and resurrection – nobody knows whether it really happened or not. So he keeps it inside. This helps him to remain mediocre. If he understands he is mediocre, that very understanding will destroy his mediocrity. To understand that you are mediocre is a great leap into intelligence.
The ordinary person is a natural person. Nature does not produce special people. It produces unique people, but not special. Everybody is unique in his own way.
The ordinary person has a uniqueness and simplicity, humbleness. Out of his simplicity, humbleness, uniqueness he has really become extraordinary, but he has no idea of it.” [Unquote]
I hope these conferences will lead you on the path of finding your uniqueness and becoming extraordinary.