Why Self-Management is a crucial missing essence in Management?

Exclusive to Vedic Management Center by U. Mahesh Prabhu Edited by Dharali Sharma.

‘There is no I in team’ we are often told in B-School. Yet, we do see how personal predicaments of one person can ruin the chances of a team’s success. When a person is not tended to, it can often lead to disastrous outcomes for a whole organization especially when it comes to Chairmen, CEOs and other top management members. Yet, when there’s a non-performing member in a team – be it in professional sport or a work setup – “conventional wisdom” often seeks dropping such people. The idea is that when a person stops performing, or rather underperforming, it’s best to let them go. And, then, all the great ideas and ideals of “team building” are turned to dust… just like that.

Prevailing management theory and practice has many limitations, which present day (read “modern”) thinkers, educators, managers as well as writers of management know about. But they don’t want to touch the holy-cow, for they fear the consequences in the absence of solid alternatives. It’s like the proverbial emperor’s clothing. Everyone knows that the emperor is butt naked; yet they don’t wish to say that for they feel their jobs could be at risk!

Typically, they use jargons or complicated theories to explain an issue, such that most people don’t understand and the original problem becomes a seemingly solution-less conundrum.

What has the modern management theory to offer for the chaotic international financial crisis that is looming overhead? Most will not even admit to its existence, that the European Union is on the verge of collapse. Mother Earth is not just being depleted of its resources but even put to slow death through ecologically unsound practices owing to corporate greed.. not just due to industrial emissions but even animal husbandry. Correct, how many of you even know that carbon emissions from animal farming is even greater than all the vehicle emissions combined? Also, there aren’t adequate resources or jobs to provide for the population we have, particularly in China and India.

Now you have a glimpse of the number of critical problems being faced not just by citizens of certain countries, but also by humanity as a whole. Let us then focus on possible solutions. Since the common feature among many of the current day tribulations are the profit based practices that seeks to abuse resources be it human or otherwise, perhaps a good place to start is to examine our management policies and practices. An alternative is a management theory based on observation, critical reasoning, sound judgement which at the same time understands sustainability and profitability: Wisdom driven management.

There’s knowledge – which essentially comes from building up of information and data to achieve a predefined goal, such as Taylor’s scientific management theory .Then there’s wisdom – which comes not just from good intent and concern for greater good but also perfectly evaluating actions and their consequences.

Knowledge will tell you that if you do something it will yield something. Present day knowledge tells us that “Intent of a company is profit maximization.” It is this knowledge that is doing the worst kind of damage. The idea that profits (money) is the answer to all problems faced by mankind is the single most detrimental factor for the chaos looming over our heads.

Don’t confuse me for a communist, socialist or a impractical bigot. I am definitely a firm believer in the idea of Capitalism. In principle, Capitalism is the idea that every person deserves a fair opportunity based on his merit to create wealth. However, it’s the idea of wealth that we’re unable to understand in greater depth, that is leading us into a dark pit of greed and disaster.

What is wealth? Just a piece of paper (currency)? Or is it just an idea of digits in your online banking window? Wealth has a significant meaning. It’s the idea of valuating things as well as efforts. Today we speak of the service industry, they are known as wealth creators. They are assessed from their ability to generate profits – but those profits come from creating solutions, application as well as products enabling people to work, earn and live better.

Currency in itself is a store of value and means of exchange that has been predefined; in its self it has no meaning. Wealth on the other hand, cannot be completely comprehended. Land, human capital, thinking even knowledge is wealth. Greater than currency, as wealth enables a person to earn currency almost from thin air by doing something – at times even without any start-up currency.

The greatest wealth, as even “modern” management pundits would agree, are people themselves. Person to be more precise. Every single person has his/her own character, personality, charm, charisma, skill, ideas as well as ideals. It’s only when individual qualities like these are harnessed that we create something remarkable. But how do we harness these? How do we enable every person to know what (s)he is truly worth?

Currently the educational, media and political establishments are the one who take responsibilities for the task of evaluating and defining human capital, yet look closely and this harks back to old fashioned communism or socialism. Consider this, believing the media propagated idea of consumerism and living a certain lifestyle, most students then decide on professions based not on interest or potential but purely on economics, political institutions then further the cause by supporting said educational institutions. Tunnel visions reigns supreme, as there seems to be only a single solution to the problem, on the other hand societies suffer due lack of skilled people in numerous professions. An example is entrepreneurship, overly emphasized as means of material success and self realization; it is currently associated with the technology sector. Educational institutes, media and politics all seem to further that myth, yet innovative thinking and entrepreneurship is required in solving day-to-day issues of people  in health care, resource management, farming to name a few. While technology can support innovation, objective situation assessment and critical thinking is the key to any viable solution, and consequent profitability.

So should one leave critical decisions such as individual growth only to few institutions, or take charge of the situation for himself. When each individual sees himself as a potential asset – wealth – he can be a true contributor. Fortunes of nations have been often changed by one man or woman. If a journey of thousand miles begins with one step – transformation of a nation begins with one person. We call that person a leader.

Unfortunately we waste our energy in hero worship. There’s nothing clearly wrong about it in principle. However, when we make someone a hero we then put him on a higher pedestal. And demi-gods or even gods are placed on walls and wallpaper – rarely if ever are they emulated. The entire history or psychology of the chosen hero is never completely known, the devotee besides knowing a few catch words becomes a poor imitation of his hero and is rarely if ever as successful. This does not imply role models should not be a source of inspiration, but a proper assessment of capabilities and opportunities should also be carried out.

What we need therefore is not just a person who accepts himself as a potential asset for the society, nation and world at large but also one who reads stories of great accomplishing luminaries and tries to emulate their success albeit in different circumstance as well as in a different way.

This can happen only when we begin working on the idea of the Self. Individual Self. Unfortunately for the modern management thinkers the very idea of Self is unknown. They are epochs away from even writing a decent article on it. And this is the reason why most of the management theories and practices have been limited to processes. They often fail to realize that processes are vulnerable to circumstances. In the prevailing circumstances, solutions they offer are often spontaneous reactions. Given this, how can such theories and practices offer consistent positive results?

Rather, if the said theorists can build people – understand their individuality and enable them to decide for themselves the role they want to play and then let them engage themselves in positive ways with optimism we are not rubbishing their individuality. This is also the idea of entrepreneurship – taking charge of one’s own professional destiny. Unless this changes, modern management is bound to perish in its current state.

March 14, 2017

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