Learning basic HR mantras from our life

Learning basic HR mantras from our life

Most people believe that to learn management you have to go to a management institute, preferably on a full-time basis. In fact, even those who have done through this circus believe that occasional booster doses of management training are essential for a person to keep learning management.

However, management is taking place everywhere, not only at an individual’s work front but also in social organisations that he may belong to, as well as at home. In most cases, the organisation at home works quite effectively, managed essentially by the wife. Observance of this process can illustrate several vital aspects of management. Most of the time we miss observing these management concepts because we do not have a framework to look at them. It is necessary to provide a framework to look at management at home.

 The concept came up years ago when a management consultant checked with his wife as to how she was maintaining satisfactorily the inventory of a hundred odd items required in the household and his wife replied: “I look at the stock level and when it goes below a particular level I purchase another lot.”  The consultant realised that the technique was applicable to industrial organisations. For most items, this visual system would work cheaper and better than any system based on written records. This led to the ‘Visual control system of inventory’.

However, the greatest lesson one can learn from the wife is the area of management. The wife excels over the husband and creates an organisation which, in spite of several discordant cohesive notes, generation gaps and other problems, remains reasonably cohesive. Without a woman in a house, the house is never a home. With a woman in the house whatever may be her age, physical or mental capabilities, the house becomes a functioning organisation.

Developing ability
Let us first take the case of what we call in management jargon ‘Human resource development’ which really means developing the abilities of people. In an organisation in spite of great expenditure on training programmes, this remains a perennially weak area. But look at a young mother teaching her son to walk. The eleven month old child is walking shakily holding his mother’s sari for support.
The mother says, “No, am sure you will walk.” So diffidently, the boy leaves hold of the sari and takes the first step. Immediately there is an applause. He takes the second step and there is applause. He takes the third step and falls down.

 The mother picks him up and kicks the floor. She says, “You were walking very well but the stupid floor came in the way.” The result is that within a week the boy learns to walk. What is the management concepts involved here? Firstly, expression of confidence: secondly, appreciation of effort; and thirdly, support in case of failure. These are vital to keep the morale. As John Kennedy put it after the Bay of Pigs disaster, “Success is a bastard — it has many fathers. Failure is an orphan— nobody owns it.”

Let us look at a typical situation handled by an executive. An executive calls  his  subordinate  and says “Here is an important task which I really want to do myself,  but I am stuck with other urgent tasks, so I have to give it to you to do it. I really do not know how well you will do it, but please, repeat, please, do not make a mess.”

The subordinate starts on the task, whenever the executive gets some time, he looks over the shoulder of the subordinate and says: “Oh, you are doing it this way?  I do not know whether it will work or not. Anyway, since you have started that way, you may as will continue.” Ultimately, if the subordinate fails, the executive jumps all over him and condemns him.

Let us look at the management concepts used. Firstly, the executive shows a lack of confidence. Secondly, he shows lack of appreciation of effort. Thirdly, he fails to support in failure. The result— the subordinate refuses to take any initiative — refusing to ‘develop’. In spite of qualifications and experience, he has no capability of handling any significant responsibility.

Important task
Take another important task in man-management: Induction of a person from a different culture into the culture of your organisation. Every girl, after marriage, enters a household which is entirely new with its own culture different from the culture she is accustomed to, for about 20 years. However, within a few months, when she says ‘our’ house she means the new one and not the old one. The girl has a new sense of identity and belonging. This induction process is worth studying as the change in her individual identity is essential for the foundation of the family. Similar is the situation regarding converting an immature irresponsible girl into a responsible mature house wife.  An executive must study the housewife’s approach to gain authority. I have met many husbands who would spend a thousand rupees without consulting their wives—although they are the ones who have earned the money. Nobody in this world ‘gives authority’ and those waiting for the authority to be given end up only in waiting and cribbing about ‘responsibility without authority’. As soon as a housewife assumes responsibility she presumes the requisite authority and extracts it through a combination of attrition, flattery, and concern.

Effective way
Flattery is a very potent tool if it is used in suitable way. By paying lip service to the ‘strength’ of the husband, the wife can use his weakness without his being conscious about it. In India wives have been able to create an illusion that men are strong and that women are weak. Concern is, perhaps, the most effective way of deriving authority.

Typically a boy is more scared of his father than his mother when he is young. As he grows and becomes economically independent father ceases to influence him a great. But his mother still dominates him till he shifts to be dominated by his wife. This domination is essentially through a concern for him which creates a strong binding force. Thus, we can see how wives, without the benefit of management schools and their jargon, have grasped the very essentials of management instinctively. Executives can do well to observe the successful application of the principles and try to emulate them to best of their ability.
(The writer is a Management Consultant. )

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