CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 38, 8th December 2003

CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Where do we go from here?
  2. Case study: Polyhydron: business ashrama


1.     Editorial: Where do we go from here?

Richard Winfield - editor and principal consultantMy friend and past client Jeff Betzoldt was worried about what people would say at his funeral.

We had rented a house at the Colorado ski resort, Aspen, and were spending a few days with the rest of Jeff's staff team considering the future of the company. When we were not mountain biking down black ski slopes, or walking in the forests, we did some real work like considering our own personal aspirations as the foundation for a forthcoming management retreat to develop a vision and mission.

I was reminded of this by Karl George's list in last week's newsletter.

I had asked the team three standard questions: -

  • What would you do if you knew you were going to die in six months time?
  • What would you do if you received a million dollars?
  • What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?

These questions are designed to help you identify what you really wish to do with your life. Are you in the right profession/employment? Are you devoting your time to the things that really matter to you?

Jeff had been particularly struck by this last one and kept referring back to it at further meetings.

Previously Jeff had promoted two managers who, after a period, had asked to be returned to their original management roles. Rather than being concerned about the 'failure' of their promotions, Jeff commented on how lucky they were. "At least they have discovered what they don't want to do."

We sometimes hear people say that you never hear anyone on their deathbed saying "I wish I had spent more time at the office." Maybe. I am concerned that people should not say on their deathbed "I wish I had discovered earlier in my life that I could have had a much more enjoyable/fulfilling/worthwhile career!"

For me the most difficult question is the first. What would you do if you discovered that you were going to die in six months? I enjoy what I do, I enjoy the people I meet. And I think that what I do is both important and fulfilling. So why would I want to do anything different?

Does that suggest that I have no other aspirations, nothing that I would like to do, nowhere I would like to go, nothing left to achieve? No. But these things would be in the context of the rest of my life. Things that I could not only enjoy in the moment, but enjoy looking back on. What would be the point if all would be over shortly afterwards?

But then, perhaps in reality I might not go into the office so often, might get around to going to more concerts or the theatre. There is the purpose of the question. If you are tempted to set new year resolutions in a few weeks, make sure that you know what you want to do – and this time, ensure you achieve it!

Donald Rumsfeld has been criticised for claiming that the problem is that we don't know what we don't know. He referred to "The unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know that we don't know." He is quite right that this is the category that tend to be the difficult ones. This is one of the categories that we, as outside consultants, focus on with clients – whether it be in scenario planning or facilitation.

We experience our own careers through our own experience of our own careers. How then can we evaluate alternatives that we are unaware of?

We have many readers in India and I am always pleased to hear from them. This week we publish an article by Dr S G Bapat about a business in India that takes a different approach. It provides an opportunity to put our own experience into a different perspective.

USEFUL LINKS:


REMINDER:

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2.     Case study: Polyhydron: Business Ashrama
Dr S G Bapat

Today, I propose to tell you a story of a business unit which can be described as symbol of Honesty. YES. I am talking about the company: Polyhydron located at Hubli near Belgaum in Karnatak State, India,

Mr. Suresh Hundre, CMD, established this unit in 1987 and with two decades of experience of observing ethical practices developed into “Business Ashrama” on 4th July 2002. (Samadhi day of Swami Vivekanand). According to Mr. Suresh Hundre: “It is a place for grooming karmayogies based on an experiment of integrating spirituality with business which produces excellent results.”

If you read the vision statement of Polyhydron it says: “We will create an island of excellence through focus on customer, employee-empowerment and continuous improvement.” I am sure, you must be feeling - “words, words and words.” Let me explain to you that Mr. Hundre and his colleagues follow not only in words but also in spirit their mission statement which reads as “Polyhydron will nurture an ethically managed organisation. We will not exploit our customers, suppliers, government, society and nature” Frankly, as a teacher of management, I have yet to find a more comprehensive mission statement than this one.

If you visit the Ashrama, you will experience the spiritual ambience – dhyan mandir for meditation, water ponds, fish, royal swans and a lot of greenery.

Polyhydron is in the manufacturing of mobile hydraulic press, way back from 1987-88. Till then the equipment was imported from USA. Obviously from India’s point of view, precious foreign exchange has been saved by the Unit.

It conducts usual business activities like manufacturing, marketing, finance, HR etc. but in a unique way. For example; in manufacturing, there is such an open-ness that a worker on the shop-floor can reject the material and - believe me - he is the final authority. As regards marketing no attractive concessions or discounts are offered to the customers. At this stage, some figures will make my point clear. For example; in 1995-96, the company turnover touched Rs.5.75 crores without offering any discounts and company proudly paid corporate tax to the tune of Rs.1.5 crores. Incidentally, Mr Hundre does not welcome any consultant in his office who may like to offer advice on how to reduce the tax burden! You will be surprised that the company’s starting point of planning is : How can we pay more tax to the Government in the current year as compared to previous year! To Mr. Suresh Hundre, this is “continuous improvement.”

I remember having read an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled: “If honesty does not pay, why be honest in business” (It is a well-intentioned survey based article.) However in the words of Mr. Hundre, “Honesty is not the best policy. It is the only policy. We are honest, we are transparent and we do not pay any bribe.”

Management of the unit is simple. It is based on “trust”. Mr. Suresh Hundre’s Polyhydron is a temple of ethics in an engineering industry. Ms. Sushama Nirgundkar who wrote an article in the Times of India, mentions “Mr. Hundre’s role models are Mahatma Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, Ratan Tata and Narayan Murthy “

It is admirable that in this unit, there are only two layers (in other words there are no supervisory staff). The atmosphere is of mutual trust. Everybody in the organisation knows the figures of net profit, material cost, labour cost, tax paid to the government., excise paid, payments made to the suppliers etc. Even outsiders like government officials and customers have access to this information. Anybody in the organisation can challenge any voucher! There are no “debtors’ no “creditors”. Obviously there are no bad or doubtful debts. Suppliers are paid the moment the material is accepted and customers pay immediately on delivery.

Employee empowermnent

All the employees are expected to be honest. They will follow ethical practices. I can give one example here. A few years back, the company was to buy a few computers. The company paid heavily for software and hardware for the computer network, buying from the original manufacturers, when pirated versions were cheaply available in the open market. The price paid was working out to be double. The company decided to buy half the number of computers and employees agreed to work in turns and by rotation – even night shift for some might be thought to be OK. A small incident but noteworthy.

Mr. Suresh Hundre believes in setting a personal example. He does participate in social activities but it will be after 5 p.m. If he is taking Off, his casual leave application will be on the notice-board. I was surprised that in one seminar in Pune on “Value based Management”, he was a faculty, but he was on “leave” and was not on duty. Forget about charging TA DA for the company!

Anybody would like that all the world over such units be multiplied. There are quite a few people in the world who still believe that ‘Good Ethics is Good Business’. I talked to Mr. Suresh Hundre, CMD. Here is a brief of the interview:

Question: Do you feel that most of the employees have understood the concept of employee empowerment?
Suresh: Yes. Most of the employees have understood the concept of Business Ashrama and they are fully empowered. In fact, a senior faculty member from Karnatak University’s Management Institute is writing Ph.D. thesis on Empowerment at Polyhydron.

Question : Mr. Hundre, you may be knowing that Mahatma Gandhi suggested “trusteeship formula” for distributing the gains as 25% to owners and shareholders, 25% for additional repayment of loan and interest, 25% to be divided equally amongst the employees and 25% is to be used for “expansion of the business in future”. Do you agree with this formula or you have developed your own.
Suresh: Dr. Bapat, we have our own formula. We first calculate the wealth created and then we share 30% with employees, 5% with shareholders, 1% with society and balance 64% remains in the business for growth. (Of course, this is all after the payment of corporate tax as per existing rules)

Question: Do you feel that almost any business anywhere in the world can be conducted on the lines of Business Ashrama?
Suresh: My personal feeling is, that, any business can be converted into an Ashrama provided the head of the organisation is fully convinced about the concept and he has very strong desire to convert the business into Ashram and enjoy the benefits.

When various countries are facing the problems of corporate frauds and mismanagement on very large scale, this is a shining example of “Value-based Management”. In view of this, one can look forward to India’s contribution not only in the field of software management but also in spiritual management.

Author: Dr.S.G.Bapat, Management Consultant, can be contacted by e-mail: sg_bapat@indiainfo.com

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SUGGESTIONS PLEASE: Comments invited on our core books recommendations

Our books section includes a list of core recommendations. This list of management books is our recommendation for the basis of any management or business library. They are among our favourite books but, more importantly, they cover the range of fundamental knowledge required in management. There are twelve books included, and we would like to keep the list short and powerful.

What are your suggestions? Would you add any or exchange any? Please let us know.

Here is the list as it stands today: -


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Brefi Group is a change management organisation that provides corporate coaching, consultancy, facilitation and training. Be sure to visit the Brefi Group web site at http://www.brefigroup.co.uk

We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield:

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E-mail: rwinfield@brefigroup.co.uk