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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The power of expectations

Let us look at the life of two students who are of the same mental capacity and who happen to be in the same classroom. Consider the first of the two, A: A is a very bright child, his powers of understanding are exemplary and he gels well with almost everyone he comes across. In a nutshell, A is a people’s person who is as talented as they come. Now let us consider the other student, B: B is an equally bright child but one significant difference is that he comes across as a little bit eccentric. B takes some time liking people and it is for this reason that B has comparatively lesser number of friends.

Now let us look at an incident which happened in the beginning of an academic year. The section’s new mathematics teacher has just had an introduction session for the children and she is just about to begin the class. She instantly identifies the two strong personalities that exist in the classroom in the form of A and B. While A impresses her naturally, she finds B’s attitude a bit lethargic and forms a prejudice against him that he is not sincere. Her initial classes give form to this perception. She makes it apparent that she expects a lot out of A with statements like, ‘There is my class’ brightest kid’; ‘A 99% means you are not making justice to what you have’; On the other hand, she blatantly criticizes B because of her preconceived notions. B’s confidence gets shattered and even his initial attempts at participation become void and he succumbs into his mental cocoon and stops participating in the class. When the results arrive, it is of no surprise to anyone that A becomes the topper. Only a trained eye could’ve found out that an equally talented child was struggling in the bottom few ranks of the class because of no actions of his own.

  This case, is a classic example of Pygmalion effect and its less popular corollary, the Golem effect. Pygmalion effect is first described in Ovid’s narrative poem Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved. A more modern embodiment of this is the play ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw. It is the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation that is placed upon people, the better they perform. The corollary of this is the ‘Golem’ effect which implies that lower expectations from a person result in poorer performance. Both are forms of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and in this regard, people will internalize their positive labels and those with positive labels succeed accordingly. These can be put to use in a lot of organizations wherein a manager’s expectation from an employee makes him much more enthusiastic and has a positive effect on his morale and performance. It is my personal understanding that Pygmalion effect gives a personal touch to the relationship between the manager and employee and it shows the employee that the manager cares for his growth and rates him very highly. This will, in a way, eliminate the alienation that people feel with a lot of their organizations.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Two theories of managing people

              "The ingenuity of the average worker is sufficient to outwit any system of controls devised by management"
                                                           -Douglas Mcgregor

While it might be confusing as to why I have mentioned this quote at the beginning of this post, I would like to throw some light on the person who made this statement, to start things off. Douglas Mcgregor, while working at MIT Sloan School of Management, created and developed the two great theories of human motivation, namely: Theory X and Theory Y during the 1960s. These have been used extensively in human resource management, organizational behavior, organizational communication and organizational development.

While the pictures are pretty self-explanatory, some more understanding should be there about these two theories. Theory X has been deemed highly counterproductive. It leads to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision and a punitive atmosphere. Phrases and words like intolerant, deadline-driven, aloof and arrogant, demands yet never asks are associated with a manager who follows this theory. It is quite clear that such managers wouldn't last one day in the current world and it is surprising that such class of managers do exist. On the other hand, Mr. McGregor rates Theory Y quite highly. In 'The Human Side of Enterprise' he simply argues for managers to be open to a more positive view of the employees. He explains that this would go a long way in creating an environment of Trust, that is indispensable for human resource development. 

Something not as popular as these two theories is called Theory Z. This was not developed by Mr. Mcgregor but by William Ouchi in his book, 'Theory Z: How American management can meet the Japanese Challenge'. Theory Z essentially advocates a combination of all that's best about theory Y and modern Japanese management, which places a large amount of freedom and trust with workers, and assumes that workers have a strong loyalty and interest in team-working and the organization. Theory Z also places more reliance on the attitude and responsibilities of the workers, whereas Mcgregor's X and Y theory is mainly focused on management and motivation from the manager's and organization’s perspective. There is no doubt that Ouchi's Theory Z model offers excellent ideas, albeit it lacking the simple elegance of McGregor’s model, which let's face it, thousands of organizations and managers around the world have still yet to embrace.

Coming to the question of managers that I have personally had a chance to work with, I have had two of them. Mr N and Ms. G. I am choosing to avoid using their names to avoid talking about them in public forum with their names. Both of my managers always went by Theory Y and it should be mentioned as a credit to the work culture at my organization that all the managers were encouraged to do so. I believe I’ll make a manager who will go by Theory Y with a subtle hint of Theory X when something important needs some urgent follow up and I am not sure if the concerned resource will get it done on time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From Craftsmanship to Company

             Our day at class today, began with Dr. Mandi walking in his usual manner, with his sandal-colored bag by his side. While we were intrigued by what could be inside this time(he had brought  simple toys to explain us the concept of marketing the previous day), he casually opened his bag and took out two wooden boxes. Small wooden cubes containing various symbols, which had been inside the boxes, were thrown at different students in the class, who accepted them with feelings of glee and curiosity.

             While we were looking at those cubes, Dr. Mandi explained to us that we would be going ahead with a Tower building exercise with them and called out for volunteers. Being an instant volunteer, I was taken aback when he asked me how much I would pay for making these budding managers watch me build a petty tower. One's loss was someone else's gain as a bidder finally put an end to the auction by agreeing to sponsor his friends with chocolates. Minutes of concentration passed as he was kept busy by trying to stack the cubes into a single tower and he eventually stopped at 16 blocks, which was quite an achievement in my opinion.
                    Now Dr. Mandi wanted to test us on our basics. He questioned us if this activity had had any organizational principles. We all wanted to identify every single organizational and management paradigm that we could associate with this activity and decided to tell it out loud. This was when he explained us about the concept of 'Craftsmanship'. We were explained how a craftsmanship activity like the 'Tower building exercise' had 'zero management and no organization'. Even though high satisfaction can be associated with craftsmanship activities, traits like delegation, decentralization, hierarchy and norms can not be associated with a craftsmanship, we were explained. 

                     This was followed by a similar activity but with multiple participants. About 8 of us volunteered, but we were told that only one would be allowed to build the tower. On top of this, he had to be blindfolded and could only be guided by the other 7 of us. This demonstrated to us, how a substantial amount of mid-level management lacked purpose. It is mandatory in any organization that there is the identification and clear cut specification of the roles. 

 More in the coming posts!

Embarking upon a new journey

 Ever since watching this video(, I have been really excited about the prospect of joining a beautiful and reputed institute like NITIE. One of the USPs of this particular video by MTV is the way Professor T. Prasad, more popularly known as Dr. Mandi, entertains while promising to teach his students the art of management. But it was not until 9: 05 am yesterday did I come to know that my very first class will be his.
      It was extremely interesting to listen to how he went about explaining us the opportunity cost that we were incurring in order to be part of the course. It was really refreshing for the whole class to listen to Doctor Mandi's practical yet effective way of teaching. In a subtle yet strong message, he explained to us, the importance of self-sustenance and with a hint of derision, rightly called the attitude of spending hard-earned parents' money the equivalent of begging. He put his point across using the phrase 'Aaj khi roooti Aaj hi khamana hai', which in Hindi means one has to earn his every meal on the same day. It was pretty apparent from his manners that he was a technology enthusiast and we have all been asked to join his ride of educating the masses through the social media. Starting with this post, I will try to do justice to the magnitude of this objective.
       My posts here will concentrate more on ' The Principles of Organisation and Management' and in our first class yesterday, we were told about the importance of this course. In a nutshell, we were asked to 'stop being nuts & bolts in a car and start imagining and appreciating and understanding the car itself'.  For those of you who do not understand, the car here is analogous to the organization and the employees being the small parts of the organization which make it run. This beginning has really made the lot of us want to learn more and more about the fundamentals of an 'Organization' and more importantly, teach the millions out there, what we are going to learn!