Monday, 1 September 2008

Art of leading......

Gather around children. Its story time. It is a corporate parable with great morals

Once upon a time, there was a huge public limited services company. It was one of the leading corporate houses in the country. It had great ambitions and vision to become a major global player in terms of revenue, man power and many other key features.

It so happened that on a particular year, the global market slumped and the forecast for the days ahead was not good. The CEO (henceforth will be known as CEO) and his board of directors looked at this forecast. As any able leadership does at the time of crisis, they reached to a quick decision and headed towards the golf course right away. Over the course of the golf game, they held intense discussions and arguments. By the time they reached the 18th hole, they had come to a unanimous decision on what to order for the working lunch right after the game. As the CEO pocketed a birdie at the 18th, he remarked ' Brainstorming is such a useful tool, no?'.

After 2 days of the above mentioned golf and working lunch...err brainstorming sessions, they reached a decision. Even if the markets are down and the economy is in recession, it should not affect their salaries (A point to note that every board member had a salary of approximately 2 crores/annum). CEO and the board hired a Firm of Financial Consultants(FFC) to analyse the situation and come up with measures to resolve the crisis.

The FFC spent a fortnight in analysing the data and used techniques such as the 'Ishikawa Diagram or the fish bone analysis'
to arrive at the causes for the problem. They identified a number of causes and used another wonderful statistical technique called the 'Pareto Analysis' to identify the key cause. The outcome of these process was that 'Facilities provided to Employees' emerged as the single most major cause for the fall in profit of the company.

Next step was to come up with measures to solve the problem. The consultants at the FFC came up with a multi pronged approach and devised multiple solutions. These solutions were presented to the CEO and his board in a 3 day conference held at a 5 star hotel.

The solutions offered came under a common umbrella called 'Cost Cutting'. But as a 'value add', the FFC also came up with ingenious euphemisms for each solution rather than call them just cost cutting measures.

The first solution proposed was to stop all the project specific cabs provided to the employees. This would result in a lot of savings as hundreds of cabs plied daily to pick up and drop employees for shifts. The euphemism for this solution was 'Stop Pollution, Save Energy transport policy of the organisation'. The CEO and the board, who had chauffeur driven cars murmured their assent this. Little did they think what the employees will do to get to home when their night shift ends at 2 AM.

The next solution offered was to stop all the stationery that was being provided to employees. By ceasing to provide pens, books, staplers, markers the company could save a lot. This measure was concealed under the guise 'Save Earth, Green Planet Policy'. Since the CEO and the board only used pens to sign and nothing else, there was a whole hearted approval without pausing to wonder what will the employees do to jot down when they are in a meeting or a training.

Next in the list was to switch off lights and air conditioners during office hours which was named a 'Save Electricity, Conserve Power policy'. As golf courses don't need both lights and A/C, this proposal was applauded by the board. It has to be mentioned that the FCC went above and beyond its call of duty and proposed one more alternative here. It was, instead of providing lighting to the whole building, just provide a miners hat with a inbuilt torch to each employee a subsidised rates. The employee will have to bear the costs of changing the batteries and maintenance of the hats. This would reduce electricity consumption to almost nil. The board thought that this idea had excellent potential and can be considered if the push comes to shove.

Another innovative solution was to stop serving beverages to employees.Aided with statistics and charts, the financial consultants proved that stopping coffee/tea would save a lot of cost. It was shown that an employee, as an average partakes 2 cups of coffee or tea in a day and if the cost of providing a cup of coffee/tea is Rs 3 approximately, then it costs Rs 6 per day per employee. The company had a work force of about 100,000 and if its assumed that about 75% of them indulge in the consumption of coffee/tea. So the total cost per day amounted to Rs 450,000. Extrapolating the figures for a period of a month, it amounts to Rs 9,000,000. If the same figures are extended to the whole year, it almost amounted to the salary of the junior most director on the board. This was named as 'Health Policy'. The board members were so astonished by the figures presented, that many of them stopped sipping their coffee and by the spark in their eyes one could readily understand what their decision would be on this extraordinary idea. As a added bonus, the FFC also proposed that instead of completely stopping beverages, it can be sold to the employees through external vendors, there by making some profit. This too received tremendous applause from the board.

Since there was a lot of ideas flying over, one of the board member too had a sudden burst of imagination and put forward the suggestion of withholding the promotions of all eligible employees, there by saving a big chunk of moolah to the company. Though they didn't come up with any official name for this idea, in general it was agreed to be called 'Screw the Employees Policy' in the inner circles.

As solutions were being presented, the CEO saw that one young man was sitting at the end of the table, without contributing to the discussions. He was from the FFC and the CEO, who wanted everyone to contribute asked the young man to speak his mind. The young man, after a moment of silence said 'Wouldn't it be prudent that at the time of such financial crunch, the board members and the directors take a salary cut and contribute to the profitability of the company?'

There was a stunned silence and the only sound was of that of the snore of a board member who had fallen asleep right after lunch and just before the meeting started. Then the whole board to a man burst out laughing and the CEO thanked the young man for bringing the much needed laugh through his excellent joke. Then he went on rambling about the necessity of laughter in the stress filled world and how important it is to smile and work together for a greater cause till one of the board member gave him a kick under the table to make him stop.

When all these solutions were presented and discussed about, the group used yet another decision making tool called the 'Nominal Group Technique' to decide which solution, when implemented will provide maximum returns.

They voted each solution based on its importance and the final result was 'Let Nominal Group Technique go to hell, we will implement all the above solutions'.

After deciding thus, the board members patted each other on the back for a job well done and coming through difficult situation. They also unanimously agreed to hike each other's salaries as a bonus for coming up with such solutions and making sure the company's path to the top is free of obstacles. They agreed to meet the next day at golf course to tackle another important issue rankling their brains. Yeah 'How to improve their golf handicap?'

PS: Last heard, the Young man from the FFC has become a vendor- supplying beverages to the same company and is earning as much as the junior most member of the board.

Disclaimer: All people, events and places mentioned above are purely fictional and statistically improbable. But the very fact that its highly improbable, makes it perfectly probable to occur.


Pradeep said...

seriously... its such an irritatingly painful situation and still we cant do anything... other than just laugh about it!!!

"They also unanimously agreed to hike each other's salaries as a bonus" anthe:-):-) Very well written:)

Ravi Kiran said...

well laugh is the only bright thing we get out of this pathetic situation, if they come to know that we get laugh out of it, probably they may find a way to stop that too... :)