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Tuesday, April 04, 2006
‘Management can be done with nobility’ – Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam, President of India
Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam is a household name since the launching of SLV-3. It has become a global synonym to missile worldwide, after the successful completion of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). He was a Project Manager. He was a Project Leader. He was a Technocrat. He was one of the greatest Rocket Scientist of our times. He collaborated with hundreds of Organizations. He managed thousands of People. He networked with every possible source to make the Missile Making Mission Impossible, a possible mission to be welcomed with millions of smiles, which made Him reach the highest seat of power in one of the biggest democratic countries in the world with great ease and with his patented simple style. Now He is the First Citizen of India. Prime Ministers, Defence Ministers trusted him to the core for his scientific, technical and above all his managerial abilities. He believes in Nobility in Management. Dr.Kalam once said that "Management can be done with nobility. The failure should be absolved by the Chief of the Mission and the success should accrue to the team." He managed many a elite groups of Scientists as a Leader of various missions he successfully completed to the satisfaction of the entire nation. His experience in managing human resources will come in handy for aspiring HR Managers and established HR experts. Recruitment, Training and Development, RelationshipManagement, Compensation and Benefits, Performance Appraisals - what not, you name it - he handled every function of HRM with great ease to make his mission possible through sheer guts and vision. He is a great Visionary with inimitable missionary zeal. Above all, He is one of the greatest motivator of our times. He is a National motivator with global vision. His life’s mission is to make India a ‘developed nation’ through motivation. To realise his vision, he is gearing up to make the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a national hub of communication with all modern facilities to propogate his dreams across the Nation. As per Dr. Kalam, Nation is also like an Organisation. India must have a vision and a mission statement to lead its talented youth towards realising the dream of transforming it into a developed nation. Being a President of the biggest democracy in the World, Dr.Kalam set his goal to do the ground work to help India become a developed nation. May his mission inspire a million and their tribe may increase a trillion !
This article is intended to explore the experiences of our beloved President of India Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam as one of the greatest HRM experts of our times. Let us delve into his experiences and valuable opinions on Human Resources Management and related functions.
On Indian Organizations and Leadership
What makes life in Indian Organizations difficult is the widespread prevalence of this very contemptuous pride. It stops us from listening to our juniors, subordinates and people down the line. You cannot expect a person to deliver results if you humiliate him, nor can you expect him to be creative if you abuse him or despise him. The line between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and vindictiveness is very fine, but it has to be drawn. Unfortunately, the only line prominently drawn in our country today is between the ‘heroes’ and the ‘zeros’. On one side are a few hundred ‘heroes’ keeping nine hundred and fifty million people down on the other side. This situation has to be changed.
On staffing and Leadership traits
What makes a productive Leader ? In my opinion, a productive leader must be very competent in staffing. He should continually introduce new blood into the organization. He must be adept at dealing with problems and new concepts. The problems encountered by an R&D Organization typically involve trade-offs among a wide variety of known and unknown parameters. Skill in handling these complex entities is important in achieving high productivity. The leader must be capable of instilling enthusiasm in his team. He should give appropriate credit where it is due; praise publicly, but criticize privately.
On Leaders’ style
Different leaders accommodate concern for workers while getting work done, in their own personal ways. Some shed all concern for workers in order to get results. they use people merely as instruments to reach goals. Some give less importance to the work, and make an effort to gain the warmth and approval of people working with them. On working style and personnel functionsInvolvement, participation and commitment were the key words to functioning. A basic aspect of a person’s working style is how he plans and organizes tasks. At one extreme is the cautious planner, who carefully spells out each step before making any move. With a sharp eye for what can possibly go wrong, he tries to cover all contingencies. At the other end is the fast mover, who weaves and dodges without a plan. Inspired by an idea, the fast mover is always ready for action.Another aspect of person’s working style is control - the energy and attention devoted to ensuring that things happen in a certain way. At one extreme is the tight controller, a strict administrator with frequent checkpoints. Rules and policies are to be followed with religious fervour. At the opposite end are those who move with freedom and flexibility. They have little patience for bureaucracy. They delegate easily and give their subordinates wide latitude for movement. I wanted leaders who tread the middle path, those who could control without stifling dissent or being rigid. I wanted men (as project leaders) who had the capability to grow with possibilities, with the patience to explore all possible alternatives, with the wisdom to apply old principles to new situations; people with the skill to negotiate their way forward. I wanted them to be accommodating, to be willing to share their power with others and work in teams, delegating good jobs, assimilating fresh opinions, respecting intelligent people, and listening to wise counsel. They would have to be able to sort out things amicably, and take responsibility for slip-ups. Above all, they should be able to take failure in their stride and share in both success and failure.
On Indian Management techniques
We had our home-grown, but effective, management techniques. One such technique was concerned with follow-up of project activities. It basically consisted of analysing the technical as well as procedural applicability of a possible solution, testing it with the wok centres, discussing it with the general body of associates and implementing it after enlisting everybody’s support. A large number of original ideas sprung up from the grass root level of participating work centers. If you were to ask me to indicate the single most important managerial tactic in this successful program (i.e.IGMDP), I would point to the proactive follow-up.
On listening skills
I listened carefully and it was indeed a great education for me. Ironically, all through school, we were taught to read, write and speak, but never to listen, and the situation remains much the same today. Traditionally, Indian scientists have been very good speakers, but have inadequately developed listening skills.
On creating good working environment
We had gone through an elaborate exercise of goal-setting and enthused the young scientists about these goals. At the review meetings, I would insist that the youngest scientists present their team’s work. That would help them in visualising the whole system. Gradually, an atmosphere of confidence grew. Young scientists started questioning senior colleagues on solid technical issues. Nothing daunted them, because they feared nothing. If there were doubts, they rose above them. they soon became persons of power. A person with belief never grovels before anyone, whining and whimpering that it’s all too much, that he lacks support, that he is being treated unfairly. Instead, such a person tackles problems head on and then affirms, ‘As a child of God, I am greater than anything that can happen to me’. I tried to keep the work environment lively with a good blend of the experience of the older scientists mixed with the skills of their younger colleagues. This positive dependence between youth and experience had created a very productive work culture at DRDL.
On dreams, growth and career path
I am aware that one of the most constant and powerful urge I experienced was my desire to be more than what I was at that moment. I desired to feel more, learn more, express more. I desired to grow, improve, purify, expand. I never used any outside influence to advance my career. all I had was the inner urge to seek more within myself. The key to my motivation has always been to look at how far I had still to go rather than how far I had come. After all, what is life but a mixture of unsolved problems, ambiguous victories, and ambiguous victories, and amorphous defeats?
On motivation and change management
To motivate people to enhance their performance and deal with depression is always a challenge for a leader. I have observed an analogy between a force field equilibrium and resistance to change in organisations. Let us imagine change to be a coiled spring in a field of opposing forces, such that some forces support change and others resist it. By increasing the supportive forces such as supervisory pressure, prospects of career growth and monetary benefits or decreasing the resisting forces such as group norms, social rewards, and work avoidancethe situation can be directed towards the desired result - but for a short time only, and that too only to a certain extent. After a while the resisting forces push back with greater force as they are compressed even more tightly. Therefore, a better approach would be to decrease the resisting force in such a manner that there is no concommittant increase in the supporting forces. In this way, less energy will be needed to bring about and maintain change.
The result of the forces I mentioned above, is motive. It is a force which is internal to the individual and forms the basis of his behaviour in the work environment. In my experience, most people possess a strong inner drive for growth, competence, and self-actualization. The problem, however, has been the lack of a work environment that stimulates and permits them to give full ex-pression to this drive. Leaders can create a high productivity level by providing the appropriate organizational structure and job design, and by acknowledging and appreciating hard work.
On motivational inventory
Themotivational inventory of a leader is made up of three types of understanding: an understanding of the needs that people expect to satisfy in their jobs, an understanding of the effect that job design has on motivation, and an understanding of the power of positive reinforcement in influencing people’s behaviour.
On needs and satisfaction
People seek to satisfy their social, egoistic, and self-actualization needs at their workplaces. A good leader must identify two different sets of environmental features. One, which satisfies a person’s needs and the other, which creates dissatisfaction with his work. We have already observed that people look for those characteristics in their work that relate to the values and goals which they consider important as giving meaning to their lives. If a job meets the employees’ need for achievement, recognition, responsibility, growth and advancement, they will work hard to achieve goals. Once the work is satisfying, a person then looks at the environment and circumstances in the workplace. He observes the policies of the administration, qualities of his leader, security, status and working conditions. Then, he correlates these factors to the interpersonal realtions he has with his peers and examines his personal life in the light of these factors. It is the agglomerate of all these aspects that decides the degree and quality of a person’s effort and performance.
On team building and team spirit
In their formative stages, teams are much like children in spirit. they are as excitable, full of vitality, enthusiasm, curiosity and the desire to please and excel. As with children, however, these positive attributes can be destroyed by the behaviour of misguided parents. For teams to be successful, the environment must offer scope for innovation. I always ensured for my teams an environment which allowed innovation and risk-taking. When you work as a project team, you need to develop a complex view of the success criteria. There are always multiple and often conflicting sets of expectations that exist about a team’s performance. Then, quite often, the project teams are virtually torn apart in their attempt to accommodate the needs and constraints of sub-contractors outside the organisation and specialist departments within the organisation. Good project teams are able to identify quickly the key person or people with whom negotiations of the success criteria must take place. A crucial aspect of the team leader’s role is to influence and negotiate with these key people for their requirements, and to ensure that the dialogue continues on a regular basis as the situation develops or changes. If there is one thing outsiders dislike, it is unpleasant surprises. Good teams ensure that there are none. A project team member must in fact act like a detective. He should probe for clues as to how the project is proceeding, and then put together different bits of evidence to build up a clear, comprehensive and deep understanding of the project’s needs and requirements.
The concept of Technology Management has its roots in the Developmental Management models which originated in the early Sixties out of a conflict between harmony-seeking and output oriented management structures. There are basically two types of management orientations: primal, which values an economic employee, and rational , which values an organisational employee. My concept of management is woven around an employee who is a technology person. While the primal management school recognises people for their independence, and rational management acknowledges them for their dependability, I value them for their interdependence. Whereas the primal manager champions independent enterprise and the rational manager serves cooperation. I moot interdependent joint ventures, getting the forces together, networking people, resources, time schedules, costs, and so on. Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam has become a legend in his life time for his inimitable and towering achievements in the field of technology. He walks his talk. He conquered the past, motivates the present and continues to inspire the generations of future. May his tribe increase manifold to take us towards a developed India!
(Excerpts from His Excellency Dr.Kalam's book 'Wings of Fire')