Unravelling the Scriptures

The Hindu way of life has lessons galore for our managers

A very happy new year to managers young and old! 
It is for over a year that Business Sutra has been my platform for discussing the art and science of management with young managers and executives. Globalisation of real-politics and business has ushered in phenomenal changes in the domain of commerce, trade and economics. The changes continue to occur torrentially. Managers, today, feel compelled to remain on their toes and on top of the learning curve. Most new management concepts and practices have been emanating from the Western world. Japan too has not lagged behind and made its indelible mark particularly in the manufacturing sector. Chinese management style is also attracting the business world’s attention.

The last few decades have witnessed growing knowledge synergy between business practitioners and management academics. This intermingling of ideas has given birth to business solutions which are more worthy of practice and implementation.

But it is a pity that business corporations and managers in Nepal and many neighbouring countries still rely largely on imported knowledge. This approach carries several risks. Firstly, foreign knowledge is not rooted in our culture and social psyche. Often English words and phrases fail to perfectly convey all our ideas because of cultural mismatch. It is, therefore, difficult to implement and replicate imported concepts successfully in our socio-business reality. One size does not fit all. Secondly, over-reliance on external ideas impedes the growth of indigenous thinking. We need to focus on our problem areas and come up with solutions which match our way of thinking and living. The success rate of such suggestions will be much higher. Blindly aping the Western way of business cannot help Nepal beyond a point. We need to go swadeshi to achieve our true potential and make our successes sustainable.

So what is the way out? Or should I say what could be the way out for Nepal? There are no readymade and customised solutions for the plethora of business enterprises in both manufacturing and service sectors.   
What can Nepali businesses do to ensure congruity between the goals and beliefs of the companies and their employees, including managers?

Harmony prevails and business grows when there is a healthy matching. However, in the Western system, we see employees being manipulated through compensation alone. It is believed that compensation is motivation enough. Extensive business research has shown that nothing can be farther from the truth. We all are familiar with the old aphorism that man does not live by bread (read money/financial benefits) alone. The most loved and respected companies are not always the best pay masters. There is much more than money that keeps a man going beyond his best.

To bring companies and their managers on the same page one can always take recourse to our scriptures. The suggestion may appear orthodox or plain stupid to some of the ultra-modern managers. I will not fault them because for a very long time our youngsters have been made to believe that spiritual scriptures and day-to-day life do not go together. It is asserted that scriptures are meant only for the religious and pious folk in the evening of their lives. This is patently wrong.

Firstly, there is not much common between religion and spiritualism. One can follow the Hindu way of life without being religious in the conventional sense of the term. You need not believe in and pray to multiple deities. At the same time, you may do so if you so wish to. You can repose all faith in any deity of your choice even if you create one for yourself. There is no dearth of gram (village) or van (forest) devtas (deities) and devis in Nepal and this part of the world. You will not lose your place in the Hindu social structure even if you do not believe in God. Moreover, Hindu scriptures do not talk of a specific form of God.

The Hindu way of life is all about following dharma or the righteous way of caring for all without any distinction. As the Bhagavad Gita (the celestial song) tells us, a worldly person can very well pursue the four chief aims of life viz. dharma, artha (wealth), kama (sensual desires) and moksha (liberation). People from diverse domains of life and society have followed the Bhagavad Gita’s teachings for millennia. It is among the most popular spiritual guides cutting across religions, climes and countries. This is so because the Gita talks of universal love and welfare; it is non-sectarian.   

That being the case anyone can seek spiritual, moral and ethical sustenance from the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas, Upanishads, and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Business managers, junior to senior, are no exception. In fact, the dilemma about right and wrong has become all the more acute in these globalised times. If businesses are sprouting, they are dying too in large numbers. Anxiety about job security has reached alarming levels. The human spirit is getting jolted by the vicissitudes of rocking business patterns. Social and family structures are crumbling. The Western business model is not human enough to deal with the situation. It is marked by inequity and inequality.

In this hour of crisis, should we not retrieve our ancient value system which has been the bedrock of the Nepali society since times immemorial? I would like to reiterate my emphasis on our ethical and moral construct. We might have strayed from the right path. We need to get back to it.

Simultaneously, we need to banish those regressive practices which have sneaked their way into the Hindu way of life and its deep spiritual foundations. Companies will thus rejuvenate not only themselves but the entire Nepali society.

What could be the righteous path for managers in this scheme of things? What should be their duties to ensure order, harmony and growth in business and personal life? The scriptures deal in detail about duties like planning, organising, staffing, coordinating and controlling organisations or states. Here is some knowledge distilled from the Bhagavad Gita.

To follow the path of dharma, managers should embrace virtue as a part of life. By identifying himself with virtue, a manager will be able to keep himself away from personal considerations for short term gains and selfish agendas. By acting selfishly without keeping other stakeholders in the loop, the manager becomes solely responsible for the results he reaps.

Consultative process is always a better option and acts as a multiplier. Straying from the righteous course leads to self-destruction.

The manager should accord precedence to organisational goals and align his targets with them. This creates a win-win situation and also engages the organisational strength in the manager’s karma.

Every manager knows that the outcome of his efforts is not in his hands. Despite the best of intentions his contribution can get affected by his own infirmities as well as other factors like competition, unethical adversaries, changes in business and market scenario, etc. Therefore, the best way is to focus on the process, details and monitoring of the action (karma) rather than the result. This is what we call nishkam karma. A job well done is good enough for satisfaction. Even the best manager cannot claim a perfect strike rate. 

By detaching himself from the uncertain outcome the smart manager gains clarity in decision making. A manager ridden by anxiety about the result fumbles in his actions and may opt for irrational steps. A clear and steady mind is the manager’s best associate. One can develop equanimity through practice of yoga.

Kautilya’s Artha Shastra focused, among other things, on financial matters. Way back in the 4th century B.C., Kautilya or Chanakya described nyaya (justice) and dharma (ethics) as the fundamentals of governance. He stressed upon regular audit of public services. Significantly, he was all for task orientation rather than target orientation in auditing. Mahabharata is a veritable treatise on leadership – a core area of modern management.

We have so much to imbibe from what we already own. Will we do that?

Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. ([email protected])

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