Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Art of Living, The Importance of Living

BOOK REVIEW by Vikram Waman Karve

[A book that enriched my life and taught me the art of living]

Published: 1937 ( New York , USA ), Indian Edition: 1960 JAICO Mumbai
ISBN: 81-7224-829

There is one book you will never find in my bookcase – you will always find it by my bedside near my pillow. At night, just before I go to sleep, I open this book to any random page, and read on till I drift off to blissful idyllic sleep.

The name of this book, which has had a profound defining effect on me, maybe even subconsciously shaped my philosophy of life, is called: The Importance of Living written in 1937 by the Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang.

But first, let me tell you a story, maybe apocryphal, about a scholar who had thoroughly studied the Bhagavad Gita for many years, considered himself an expert, traveled far and wide delivering discourses on the teachings of the Gita and was widely acknowledged as an authority on the subject. His ultimate desire was to deliver a discourse on the Bhagavad Gita at Benares , which was the sanctum sanctorum of learning.

So he went to Benares , and impressed by the scholar’s erudition and fame, the King of Benares invited the scholar to deliver a discourse on the Bhagavad Gita in his court. All the wise men of Benares assembled to hear the Scholar, but just as he began to speak the King interrupted him and told him to read the Bhagavad Gita one more time in the evening and deliver his discourse the next day. The Scholar was furious but he had no choice but to comply with the king’s wishes.

As he read the Bhagavad Gita with full concentration in the evening, he realized some new meanings and updated his speech accordingly. Next day the same thing happened – the moment the scholar began to speak the King interrupted him and told him to read the Gita once more and then come the next day to give his lecture. And again as the Scholar read the Gita he comprehended some new wisdom – something he hadn’t perceived before. So he incorporated his new findings and proceeded to deliver his talk.

Again the same thing happened – the king interrupted him and told him to again read the Gita once more before he gave his discourse. And again the scholar discovered some new wisdom in the Gita. This cycle went on for days and days till the scholar realized how ignorant he was and how much more there was to learn from the Bhagavad Gita that he gave up the idea of delivering the discourse and decided to totally devote his entire efforts to the study of the Bhagavad Gita.

Days passed, and suddenly one morning, when the scholar was deeply immersed in his study, the King went to the scholar’s house, sat before him with folded hands and requested the scholar to enlighten him about the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.

It’s the same with any great book. Every time you read it, something new emerges, and you realize you have so much more to learn from it. I have read The Importance of Living innumerable times, again and again, with renewed pleasure, and every time I read it I imbibe a special different philosophical flavor, and grasp new wisdom, which delves on all aspects of the art of living, and I have realized that there is more significance and value in Lin Yutang’s magnum opus than I am capable of appreciating. So let me not be as presumptuous as to attempt to evaluate this classic treatise – I’ll just try to gently pilot you along in random vignettes to give you a flavor of this delightful philosophical gem.

Let’s open this delightful book to a few random pages, read some lines to give you glimpse into the wisdom on the art of living contained in this masterpiece. In the section on Leisure and Friendship are these words: “Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely”. Reflect on this, let these words perambulate in your mind for some time. There is nothing that man enjoys more than leisure. The highest value of time is when you are doing what you love and want to do. During leisure you are free to choose what you want to do and enjoy doing. Leisure enables you to realize the highest value of your time!

Tell me, why do you work? Is it for job satisfaction? Or is it to earn money so that you can enjoy satisfaction off the job? In fact, most of us work for our leisure, because there is nothing we enjoy more than leisure. Elaborating on a theory of leisure the book says: “Time is useful because it is not being used. Leisure is like unoccupied floor space in a room…it is that unoccupied space which makes a room habitable, as it is our leisure hours which make our life endurable”. Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.

Enunciating the distinction between Buddhism and Taoism: “The goal of the Buddhist is that he shall not want anything, while the goal of the Taoist is that he shall not be wanted at all”, the author describes the tremendous advantages of obscurity, and deduces that only he who is not wanted by the public can be a carefree individual. It is true isn’t it – only he who is a carefree individual can be a happy human being? Lin Yutang deliberates delightfully on his philosophical view: “Nothing matters to a man who says nothing matters”.

“How are we to live? How shall we enjoy life, and who can best enjoy life?” The feast of life is before us; the only question is what appetite we have for it. The appetite is vital, not the feast. This delightful treatise gives us insights on how to develop, enhance and refine our appetites in order to enjoy various facets of living. The capacity for true enjoyment comes from an inner richness in a man who loves the simple ways of life. There is always plenty of life to enjoy for a man who is determined to enjoy it.

You may find some of the author’s views a bit passé – “mere relationship between man and woman is not sufficient; the relationship must result in babies, or it is incomplete” or “woman reaches her noblest status only as a mother, and that wife who by choice refuses to become a mother… loses a great part of her dignity…and stands in danger of becoming a plaything” or “a natural man loves his children, but a cultured man loves his parents” or “The art of attaining happiness consists in keeping your pleasures mild” or “It is against the will of God to eat delicate food hastily, to pass gorgeous views hurriedly, to express deep sentiments superficially, to pass a beautiful day steeped on food and drink, and to enjoy your wealth steeped in luxuries” – think about it, reflect a bit, and you may detect a iota of authenticity in these nuggets.

The book has fourteen chapters, embellished with epigrams, teaching stories, ancient wisdom and wit, on various aspects of the importance and enjoyment of living and once you start reading it this book is indeed so engrossing that it is truly unputdownable. The Importance of Loafing, The Enjoyment of the Home, Nature, Travel, Culture, The Arts of Thinking, Eating, Reading , Writing, Loving, Happiness – the range and variety of topics covered indeed make fascinating reading.

Reading is the greatest of all joys. Extolling the virtues and charm of reading, Lin Yutang says: “The man who has not the habit of reading is imprisoned in his immediate world…the reader is always carried away into a world of thought and reflection”, and on writing: “a writing is always better when it is one’s own, and a woman is always lovelier when she is somebody else’s wife”. “He who is afraid to use an ‘I’ in his writing will never make a good writer” and “anyone who reads a book with a sense of obligation does not understand the art of reading… to be thoroughly enjoyed, reading must be entirely spontaneous…you can leave the books that you don’t like alone, and let other people read them!”

The best way to read The Importance of Living is to open any page and browse whatever appeals to you, randomly, in an unstructured and haphazard manner. Think of yourself as a traveler in the philosophical or spiritual domain. The essence of travel is to have no destination.A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to; a perfect traveler does not know where he came from! A true traveler is always a vagabond – he travels to see nothing, to see nobody, with plenty of time and leisure, with the true motive to become lost and unknown.

Are you the ambitious competitive go-getter obsessed with an overpowering desire for achieving quick success – craving for power, wealth, fame, and the status and money-oriented aspects of life? Do you value material possessions more than peace of mind? Is external achievement more important than inner tranquility?

If your answer to any of the questions is “Yes”, then please don’t bother to read this book now, as you may be too “busy” in your own competitive rat race of your own making and probably you don’t have any time to “waste” on anything that doesn’t give you something tangible in return – a solid material ROI (Return on Investment) for investing your valuable time and effort reading this book. But please don’t forget to read The Importance of Living after you’ve burned out, had a heart attack or suffered a nervous breakdown – when you’ll have plenty of time and, perhaps, the inclination, to reflect, contemplate, and delve more deeply upon the more intangible philosophical aspects of life – and ruminate on how you could have obviated that stressful burn-out, agonizing heart attack or traumatic nervous breakdown. Here’s Lin Yutang’s take: “Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”

If you are happy here and now, wherever you are, in whatever state you are, and you are truly content with what you have, you place living above thinking, and are interested in savoring the feast of life and its joys, then this witty philosophical treatise on the art of living in its entirety is the book for you.

The Importance of Living presents an uncomplicated approach to living life to its fullest in today's rapidly changing, fast paced, competitive, ambition dominated, money and status oriented, commercialized world, enabling each one of us to enjoy inner peace and happiness.

Sometimes, it is a great pity to read a good book too early in life. The first impression is the one that counts. Young people should be careful in their reading, as old people in eating their food. They should not eat too much. They should chew it well. Like you should eat gourmet food only when you are ready for it, you should read a good book only when you are ready for it. Mature wisdom cannot be appreciated until one becomes mature.

But The Importance of Living is a book for all ages. Of 1937 vintage, an ancestor and precursor of modern "self-help" books, it is a delightful philosophical treatise, which advocates a humorous and vagabond attitude towards life and deals with a variety of topics encompassing the art of living. Is such a happy and carefree philosophy of life relevant today?

Why don’t you give it a try and see for yourself!Slowly, relaxingly, thoroughly, peruse this classic masterpiece, absorb the witty wisdom, reflect, try out, practice and incorporate whatever appeals to you in your daily life, ruminate, experiment, enjoy yourself, have a laugh, change your lifestyle, enhance your quality of life, elevate your plane of living, and maybe your entire way of life may change forever.

Dear Reader, I commend this delightfully illuminating book. Though enunciated with a touch of humor, the thoughts are profound. Do get a copy of The Importance of Living and read it leisurely. I’m sure you will find a copy at your nearest bookstore or in your library. And don’t forget to tell us how you liked it, and did it change your life for the better.


[A book that enriched my life and taught me the art of living]





Numerous theories of motivation have been formulated, tomes and tomes written, and Management Gurus pontificate to their hearts’ content, on the subject of Motivation, but to put it simply, I feel that, in a nutshell, all the motivators, or motivating factors, can be encapsulated in the acronym “MICE”.

Let’s expand MICEMoney, Insecurity, Cause, Ego.

In today’s materialistic world Money is probably the primary motivating factor. Need I say more?

Fear and Insecurity have always been powerful motivators for ages. Though negative in nature, these are used very often by many organizations and bosses.

Many idealistic persons are motivated for a Cause, ideology, belief, passion, love, ambition, or to realize one’s “life-mission”.

The role of Ego, pride, self-importance, self-respect [“izzat”] and self-actualization as a motivator is significant in some cases.

MICE and Motivation – they are inextricably linked, isn’t it? And isn't it motivation so easy? I wonder why we have all those esoteric motivational management theories taught at B-Schools!

Dear Reader, do you agree. Please tell us what you feel?


Friday, April 18, 2008

IT Boom

Title: Information, Systems and Information Systems – making sense of the field
Authors: Peter Checkland and Sue Howell
John Wiley & Sons (1988)
ISBN 0-471-95820-4

[Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve]

Information Technology [IT] is the buzzword of today. IT is ubiquitous; almost everyone is connected with IT in some way or the other. A few years ago, till the nineteen eighties, there were courses in Electrical, Electronics, Communications and Telecommunications Engineering and later in Computer Science and Engineering, but now there are dedicated courses in Information Technology, and almost all Engineers, and even others, irrespective of their specializations, are rushing to take up jobs in IT and IT Enabled Services. The Management guys have also joined the fray and added a “management” dimension to IT by offering MBA courses in “IT Management”.

What exactly is IT? Maybe the phrase “IT” was coined to mark the convergence of two technologies that had been traditionally separate: “Computing” and “Communications” and the confluence of several streams of development including electronics, microelectronics, computer science, telecommunications, software engineering and systems analysis.

There are a large number of books and extensive literature on the content of IT. This book is a significant treatise on the context of IT. The principal author Peter Checkland is a pioneering researcher in the field of Systems Engineering and Management and has developed breakthrough concepts like Soft Systems Methodology [SSM] and written the seminal classic “Systems Thinking, Systems Practice”. The co-author Sue Holwell has a rich and varied professional experience in systems design and implementation, information strategy and communication networks.

This book has eight chapters arranged in four parts. In the first part on “The Field of Information Systems and its Problems” the authors deliberate on the basic concepts pertaining to Information Systems [IS] and Information Technology [IT], distinguish between the “Hard” (objective positivistic scientific) and “Soft” (subjective interpretative) schools of thought in the context of Management Information Systems [MIS], and introduce the reader to the fundamentals of Soft System Methodologies [SSM].

The “meat” of the book is in Part Two whose two chapters elucidate on the application of the developed Information System Management concepts to organizations and describe the “information continuum” – the linkages between data, information and knowledge. Parts Three and Four substantiate these hypotheses with experiential examples from as early as World War II and drives home the point that the evolution and development of the science of Information Systems [IS] owes nothing to computers which did not exist in 1940, makes it clear that IS is not the same as IT, reminds us that computers are a mere means of IS, and cautions us against falling into the trap of “technological determinism” resulting from the prevalent propensity to overly focus on computer-based IT and allow technology to take charge of our actions.

The book is aptly adorned with simple illustrations which facilitate ease of understanding. As the dust jacket says, the book is a work of conceptual cleansing and presents a well-argued account of IS and IT which is both holistic and coherent. I recommend this remarkable book to IT, Engineering and Management students and professionals – reading it will certainly enhance their conceptual understanding of Information Systems and Technology.

[Book Review by Vikram Waman Karve]

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Force Field Analysis

FORCE FIELD ANALYSIS - An easy way to get rid of addictions



Many years ago, at work, I used to employ a Management Technique called Force Field Analysis in Project Management. Now I improvise the Force Field Analysis Model to great effect and success, in my personal life too for self improvement, to break bad habits – to change my life for the better. So can you. Let me give you an example.

It was a tough and stressful working day. It was hot and humid, I was tired, sweating profusely, my throat parched with thirst, and as I walked home late in the evening, I found myself opposite my favorite bar. I looked yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have a glass of chilled beer. Nothing like a glass of cold beer to drive my blues away – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state!

But I didn’t go into the bar. Instead, I rushed to the nearest Chaatwala and had some pani-puri. The moment I put the first pani-puri in my mouth, the intense overpowering medley of sweet and sour, pungently hot, fiery and spicy flavor of the chutneys, jal jeera and “pani” overwhelmed me and made my craving thirst for beer disappear pretty fast and enabled me to stick my resolve of giving up drinking.

I had suitably improvised the concept of “Force Field Analysis” to break my drinking habit and then keep it that way. Long back, I had quit smoking too, and to stay that way, make sure I didn’t start again, I used force field analysis with great success.

Force Field Analysis provides a framework for looking at the factors or forces that influence a situation or activity. Restraining Forces are those which inhibit or discourage the occurrence of a particular activity and Driving Forces are those which promote, facilitate and encourage the occurrence of the same activity. Let’s say Driving Forces are positive anchors and Restraining Forces are negative anchors.

Let’s take the case of drinking. Sit down, close your eyes, and introspect. Can you identify the stimuli, the triggers, and the situations, the driving forces, which create in you the desire and give rise to the urge to drink? These driving forces can be anything, internal and external tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, parties, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms.

Do a simple exercise. For the next week, or even a month, be yourself, live as you do, but mindfully record all the occasions on which you had alcohol and carefully list the driving forces that motivated you to drink. Was it a social event, party, friends, as an appertif before some gourmet food, smoking, dancing, “creativity”, for reducing inhibitions or enhancing excitement as a prelude to sex, tiredness, happiness, celebration, depression, boredom, the company or memories of some people, sad memories, self pity, jealousy, inner craving, addiction…? Do it thoughtfully and make an exhaustive list of the driving forces.

Make a list of restraining forces that discourage or inhibit you from drinking. Concern for health? Wife’s nagging? Physical Exercise? Values, religious and cultural taboos, regulations like prohibition and no drinking zones, work and hobbies, social encouragement of temperance? Some types of foods too are effective restraining forces [for me, pani-puri, bhel, jal jeera, lassi are quite effective. Also I lose the urge to drink after a good meal]. Through mindful living and personal experience, record the restraining forces meticulously.

Now all you have to do to quit drinking is to strengthen the restraining forces, mitigate and weaken the driving forces and most importantly, where possible, change direction of some driving forces and convert them into restraining forces by using techniques from concepts like NLP, 4T etc or, best of all, your own improvised techniques [like the in lieu substitution method I have evolved for myself].

Learn how to tactfully and effectively avoid drinking. Suppose your friends try to force you, taunt you saying you are a sissy, spoil sport etc simply say, "I really must go," and leave the place. Remember what Epictetus said: If you want to do something make a habit of it; if you want not to do something refrain from doing it. I’ve also read somewhere: If want to be happily married, remain in the company of happily married people. Always be with likeminded people whom you want to emulate. If you want to stop drinking try to be in the company of non-drinkers.

Avoid situations which elicit craving. Substitute healthy activities like physical exercise, recreation and creative hobbies instead of drinking. Change your lifestyle, your friends, and your activities.

Identify your stimuli, triggers, situations, people and anchors, internal and external, tangible and intangible – the driving forces that create in you the urge to have a drink and facilitate drinking and mitigate them by improvising force field analysis as it suits you best.

And, Dear Reader, do let me know if it worked for you!


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

Monday, April 7, 2008

Human Resource Destruction

Human Resource Destruction (HRD)




Tradition has it that conflict is bad, it’s something to be avoided. The culture of many organizations implies explicitly or implicitly that conflict should be suppressed and eliminated. It is common for managers to perceive intra-organizational conflict as being dysfunctional for the achievement of organizational goals. Most of us still cling to the idea that good managers resolve conflict.

Current thinking disputes this view. In the absence of conflicting opinions, harmonious tranquil work groups are prone to becoming static, apathetic and unresponsive to pressures for change and innovation. They also risk the danger of becoming so self-satisfied, that dissenting views – which may offer important alternative information – are shut out. In short, they fall victims to a syndrome called “GROUPTHINK”

In a study of public policy decision fiascoes, I.L Janis identified “GROUPTHINK” as a major cause of poor decision making. As he describes it, ‘groupthink’ occurs when decision makers who work closely together develop a high degree of solidarity that clouds their vision, leading them to suppress conflicting views and negative feelings about proposals, consciously or unconsciously. A manifestation of the groupthink phenomenon is the staggering irrationality which can beset the thinking of the otherwise highly competent, intelligent, conscientious individuals when they begin acting as a group or team.

Effect and Symptoms of Groupthink

The net effect on the group is that it overestimates its power and morality, it creates pressures for uniformity, and its members become close-minded, living in ivory towers. Some manifestations are the illusions of invulnerability and the encouragement to take great risks and to ignore the ethical or moral aspects of their decisions and actions.

This author has witnessed close-mindedness on the part of several managers which then permeated their teams. One project manager took this to the extreme and in effect defined his environment as consisting of two kinds of people, either friends or enemies. The friends were people who completely agreed with his favoured solutions and supported his project. All others were enemies. Soon his entire project team was echoing similar sentiments having fallen victim to “GROUPTHINK”, resulting in unbending positions, heated arguments and subsequent lack of respect for anyone who disagreed with them; the ultimate consequences can easily be guessed.

The symptoms of groupthink include:

(i) An illusion of invulnerability that becomes shared by most members of the group.

(ii) Collective attempts to ignore or rationalize away items of information which might otherwise lead the group to reconsider shaky but cherished assumptions.

(iii) An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, thus enabling members to overlook the ethical consequences of their decisions.

(iv) Stereotyping the dissenters as either too evil for negotiation or too stupid and feeble to merit consideration.

(v) A shared illusion of unanimity in a majority viewpoint, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent.

(vi) Self-appointed “mind-guards” to protect the group from adverse information that might shatter complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decision.

Not very surprisingly it has been suggested that those most susceptible to groupthink will tend to be people fearful of disapproval and rejection. Conversely, an outspoken individualist, if trapped in a groupthink situation, runs the risk of being ejected by his colleagues if he fails to hold his tongue.

Groupthink Situations :

The Dominant Leader:

Because the CEO dispenses all favours, his biggest problem is to avoid being treated like God. Secondly, to avoid thinking that he is God. Indeed, in many organizations, it is not easy to contradict or argue too vigorously with the boss. Even when managers feel that they know more than a superior, they may suppress doubts because of career considerations. Fear, respect for authority, and even admiration may make skeptics hesitate when confronted with a confident CEO. This is less of a problem if the leader acts in the organization’s interests, possesses requisite soft skills, and has strong ethics and cognitive capabilities to make decisions. However, if a leader does not force serious questioning, he or she will sometimes make mistakes. Colleagues will become “yes-men”, and groupthink will take over decision making. And the dominant CEO may not discover his or her mistakes because fearful employees withhold information.

What can lower-level managers do about the boss who has lost touch with reality and seems to be driving the organization in the wrong direction? One can adopt three different strategies:

(i) “Exit” (Leave the organization)
(ii) “Voice” (attempt to force changes from within)
(ii) “Loyalty” (accept things the way they are)

Each individual can evaluate the risks and benefits of each strategy. However, if the organization is really on the wrong track, true loyalty requires an attempt to communicate one’s reservations and concerns to the leader.

How can a confident, independent CEO avoid the pitfalls and temptations of absolute power? The obvious (but difficult) answer is to make sure that power is never absolute, surround oneself with other confident, independent people, and encourage dissension and debate on every decision.

In his autobiography ‘A Soldier’s Story’ General ON Bradley has exemplified this aspect in the decision-making style of General George C Marshall, Chief of Staff of the US Army in World War II, a dominant leader who was instrumental in the Allied Victory owing to his resolute management of the entire war effort. “Gentlemen, I am disappointed in you. You haven’t yet disagreed with a single decision I have made,” he told his staff after one week in office. “When you carry a paper in here, I want you to give me every reason you can think of as to why I should not approve it. If, in spite of your objections, my decision is still to go ahead, then I’ll know I am right.”

Rather than search for views that might reinforce his own, a CEO should seek contrary opinions to avoid groupthink. Some suggest using devil’s advocates for all major decisions by assigning some individuals in all groups and teams to argue against the dominant view.

Parallel Power:

This is a “groupthink” situation in which individuals or groups low in the hierarchy are powerful enough to do what they want, even when contrary to organizational objectives. Such power may be based on specialized expertise or privileged access to information. Parallel power can lead to groupthink in two ways. Firstly, senior managers may accept ideas from lower-level managers that are not necessarily in the organizational interest, either because they have insufficient information to ask the right questions, or because opposition would not seem legitimate.

Secondly, top managers may make decisions without all the necessary information because subordinates do not provide it due to vested interests arising from misplaced loyalties to a limited function, department or team, rather than to the organization as a whole.

Such situations can be mitigated by ensuring that managers rotate between different units and positions.

Natural Unanimity:

When everyone in power instinctively shares the same opinion on an issue, the wise manager should be wary. Natural unanimity groupthink results in an inward-looking organization detached from its environment. Escape from this predicament almost certainly requires a fresh perspective that can come only from outside, by hiring new managers or appointing outside consultants.

A CEO may lay overemphasis on staff – line cooperation in the belief that the easiest way to ensure implementation is to recommend only those actions that the line managers agree with. But this is not necessarily useful to an organization and may lead to mutual admiration and, ultimately, ‘natural unanimity groupthink’. The effectiveness of staff - line dichotomy depends on maintaining a certain tension between the two. When the tension disappears, the staff may not be doing its job.


The key element in any strategy for avoiding groupthink is to instill checks and balances into the system. Formally, this can be achieved through cross-functional teams, staff advisers, external consultants, or procedures like “devil’s advocacy”. Informally, managers must learn to tolerate dissidence and encourage their colleagues to express doubts about proposals. Propositions from various parts of the organization need to be treated transparently, equitably, and consistently, to avoid groupthink.


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

CATWOE - A Management Model




Before you take a decision or implement change or introduce a new system I am sure you consider the five “E’s”:

Efficacy (will it work at all?)

Efficiency (will it work with minimum resources?)

Effectiveness (does it contribute to the enterprise?)

Ethics or Ethicality (is it sound morally?)

Elegance (is it beautiful?)

Let’s talk a bit about the fourth “E” – Ethics. There is an ethical dimension to every decision. Any time a human being, or entity, intervenes in the life of another human being, or entity, directly or indirectly, an ethical situation arises. There is a story, probably apocryphal, which illustrates this. There was a cyclonic storm and millions of fish were washed ashore and were struggling for life on the beach. A man came to the beach and patiently began to pick up the fish, one by one, and throw them back into the sea. An amused passerby asked him what difference it would make, to which the man pointed to the fish in his hand and said, “Ask this fish?”Thus, we see that seemingly routine decisions, which at the organizational level do not appear to have major ethical magnitude, have large ethical significance at the individual level.

Some people believe that ethics is of little concern to business people. “Ethics is Ethics” and “Business is Business” they say. Thus many upwardly mobile managers of today tend to rationalize when faced with an ethical dilemma and take the position that they must wear two hats and cloak themselves with two separate but conflicting codes of ethics: one code applicable to the professional or technical aspects of their work (Professional or Technical Ethics), and another for their business behavior (Business Ethics). This leads to the development of schizophrenic professional personality wherein a manager may strive for professional excellence and high ethical standards for one’s own self and within one’s organization, but resort to unethical practices to succeed in business at all costs.

This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde approach is at the heart of many ethical dilemmas in managerial decision-making.

Each person, entity, group, institution or constituency that is likely to be affected by the decision is a “stakeholder” with a moral claim on the decision maker. This stakeholder concept provides a systematic way of perceiving and resolving the various interests involved in our ethical decision making. There is an ethical dimension to every decision. Thus any of your decisions, which affect other persons, have ethical implications, and virtually all of your important decisions reflect your sensitivity and commitment to ethics. In summary, as you perform your job in your workplace, what are the ethical dimensions as you deal with your superiors, peers, subordinates, customers and all other stakeholders connected with your work. Different stakeholders have different ethical perspectives. For example, take the case of organizational romance. Whereas, some organizations [and stakeholders] may feel that there is nothing ethically wrong with workplace romance and many even encourage organizational romance / marriage among colleagues by giving various perks / incentives, some others may discourage or even prohibit workplace-romance. Of course, sexual harassment would be universally considered unethical.

One useful technique to resolve such ethical dilemmas is the CATWOE model adapted from Systems Management. Ethical dilemma occurs due to mismatch in ethical perspectives of various stakeholders involved in the ethical situation. A CATWOE analysis helps the manager identify all stakeholders involved in a decision and their respective ethical perspectives. CATWOE is an acronym to categorize various stakeholders:



To elaborate a bit:

C: The ‘customers of the system’. In this context, ‘customers’ means those who are on the receiving end of whatever it is that the system does. Is it clear from your definition of “C” as to who will gain or lose from your decision?

A: The ‘actors’, meaning those who would actually carry out the activities envisaged in the notional system being defined.

T: The ‘transformation process’. What does the system do to the inputs to convert them into the outputs?

W: Weltanschauung - The ‘world view’ that lies behind the root definition. Putting the system into its wider context can highlight the consequences of the overall system. For example the system may be in place to assist in making the world environmentally safer, and the consequences of system failure could be significant pollution.

O: The ‘owner(s)’ – i.e. those who have sufficient formal power over the system to stop it existing if they so wished (though they won’t usually want to do this).

E: The ‘environmental constraints’. These include things such as ethical limits, regulations, financial constraints, resource limitations, limits set by terms of reference, and so on.


All decisions must take into account and reflect a concern for the interest and well being of all stakeholders.

Ethical values and principles always take precedence over non-ethical and unethical values and principles

It is ethically proper to violate an ethical principle only when it is clearly necessary to advance another true ethical principle which, according to the decision maker’s conscience, will produce the greatest balance of good in the long run


Step Action

1 Identify and classify the stakeholders in the situation using CATWOE and understand their ethical perspectives

2 Identify their dominant ethical perspectives

3 Construct an ethical conflict web, mapping different ethical perspectives [CATWOE – six nodes]

4 Identify those strands of the web where no significant conflict may be assumed to exist. These may be removed from the ethical decision making model.

5 Concentrate on those strands where conflict does exist. Use a conflict resolution techniques to achieve the “overall good” for the system

Ethical decision-making involves the process by which a person evaluates and chooses among alternatives in a manner consistent with his or her core ethical values or principles. Thus when you make an ethical decision you:

(a) Perceive and eliminate unethical options
(b) Select the best from several competing ethical alternatives.

Ethical decision-making requires more than a belief in the importance of ethics. It also requires sensitivity to perceive the ethical implications of your decisions; the ability to evaluate complex, ambiguous and incomplete facts and the skill to implement ethical decision making without jeopardizing your career. Ethical decision-making requires three things; ethical commitment, ethical consciousness and ethical competence.The CATWOE model will help you in Ethical Decision-making.


© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Job Satisfaction - A Myth




In today’s world, it is naive to assume that people work primarily to achieve professional fulfillment and job satisfaction. As a matter of fact, they seem to work because what they get on the job enables them to achieve whatever they want to achieve off the job.

On the job, they have to “produce” - there is no time for any enjoyment. Compensation levels and competitiveness are higher than ever before and the chief casualties are traditional factors like “job satisfaction”.

Today’s typical professional may no longer have an undivided loyalty and commitment towards his job. Therefore, it is incorrect to believe that an employee’s work life is spent entirely in the pursuit of job satisfaction. Perhaps, he or she is not actively seeking job satisfaction as much as aspiring towards other important needs and considerations like own career progression, standard of living and personal fulfillment. The job is a means to achieving the desired ends.

One of the typical propositions held by most people connected with HR is that job satisfaction is positively associated with job performance. Does a “satisfied” employee always “produce” more? It may be wrong to presume and take for granted a fictitious linkage between job satisfaction and employee productivity in all cases.

In some cases, one may be shocked to find that while the so-called “satisfaction” was increasing, the productivity of the individual was declining. The reason behind this is the mistaken concept that a satisfied employee will devote his dedicated attention to his work.

A “satisfied” or “happy” employee may begin to develop an approach of self-complacency, and an overall sense of well-being, and consequently, his temperament may become one of ignorant submission and passivity rather than one of positive action and active involvement. As a result, it is not too uncommon to see that the productivity of the employee does not always closely follow his upward satisfaction curve.

Another important aspect of this situation is the rate of constructive conflict. If properly used and suggestively applied in the organizational context, the managerial implantation of a limited degree of constructive conflict does indeed shake these smug people and “satisfied” employees out of their lethargy and enables them to achieve a certain individuality of action. Viewed from the perspective of the organization the key issue is not having satisfied, happy employees but maximizing productivity, the bottom line being profit.

With changing value systems, it may be wrong to believe that increased satisfaction means increased motivation as propounded by various theories of motivation ( Maslow’s Need Hierarchy, for example). Here it is vital to understand that “need” comprises two components: “Appetite” and “Desire ”.

Appetite corresponds to that part of each hierarchical level of need, the non-satisfaction of which can be expected to normally inhibit or deter progress up the hierarchy of needs.

Desire corresponds with the greedy, relatively unjustified part of each hierarchical level of need, the satisfaction of which should not be viewed as necessary prerequisite.

With changing values, and by habit and custom, yesterday’s desires become today’s appetite .

The effect of extrinsic “motivational techniques” like job satisfaction, material rewards and employee pampering will result in undue escalation eventually of employee "need" satisfaction threshold limits and draw energies towards the satisfaction of desires.

The myth of job satisfaction exerts severe pressures upon both the employer and the employee. The employer convinces himself that he must provide satisfaction on the job and the employee rationalizes his or her behaviour and anticipates satisfaction.

In this two-faceted pressure-approach, the entire organization suffers from unwanted conflicts, unfulfilled expectations, and unkept promises.


© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Management of the Absurd

Book Review by Vikram Karve

The Book:




ISBN 0-684-80080-2


Leafing through my beloved books on my bookshelves is one of my favorite pastimes. I love the company, the smell and the feel of books, as I leisurely browse and glance through the varied books I have collected over the years. And maybe select one for perusal.

This morning I picked up a delightful management classic called Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson. I acquired my copy on 06 May 1999 in the Pune Book Fair (that’s what I’ve written below my name on the first page). It is a laconic book which explores the paradoxes of management in an extremely witty manner. Let’s browse through this wonderful book together.

In his foreword Michael Crichton writes: “In this book Richard Farson reports more than experience; he gives us …wisdom”.

The 172 page book has eight parts and thirty three chapters, and as the author says in the introduction, these chapters need not necessarily be read in sequence, but in whatever order appeals to the reader. Let’s do just that.

“Morale is unrelated to productivity” the author says chapter in 27, turning conventional HR wisdom on its head. He deprecates management practices of pampering and mollycoddling employees (which one reads of particularly in the IT sector), giving gifts, holding parties, recognizing birthdays, gestures of goodwill and other HR gimmicks designed to court employee favor as a calculated morale-raising strategy. Self-actualized people, who were among the greatest achievers in our society, were not necessarily comfortable or happy; they could be ruthless, boring, stuffy, irritating, and humorless and organizations are absolutely dependent on such people. You don’t agree, don’t you? That’s why you must read this book, which turns things you have learnt topsy-turvy and gives you something to think about.

Effective Managers are not in control, emphasizing the vulnerability requirement in a leader. Absurdly, our most important human affairs – marriage, child rearing, education, leadership – do best when there is occasional loss of control and an increase in personal vulnerability, the author says, and compares leadership with romance. If you know how to have a romance, it isn’t a romance, but a seduction. Not knowing how to do it makes it a romance; it’s the same for leadership, an intangible quality, management techniques don’t work. Genuineness in relationships is the only way to lead professionals.

Training leads to the development of skills and techniques, and suggests the possibility of control. Education leads to information and knowledge, which suggests the possibility of understanding, even wisdom. Wisdom involves humility, compassion and respect – essential to effective leadership!

Training makes people more alike, education tends to make people different from each other, so the first benefit of education is that the manager becomes unique, independent. “Don't try to train leaders. Educate them!” the author exhorts.

Planning is an ineffective way to bring about change. Too often it is an empty ritual designed to make management feel there is something going on in that area.

There are paradoxes and paradoxes, absurdities and absurdities!

Individuals are strong, but organizations are not! I thought it was the other way around.

The better things are the worse they feel, says the theory of rising expectations, and that’s why good marriages are more likely to fail than bad ones, and second marriages are better than first marriages, but shorter!

In communication, form is more important than content, praising people does not motivate them, and the more we communicate, the less we communicate.

The ‘meat’ of the book is the chapter on – The “Technology” of Human Relations. Exploring the impact of technology on Human relations, the author discusses how technology invents us, develops a life of its own and with every application of technology a counterforce develops that is the exact opposite of what we intended. The danger is that we become so in love with technological applications that we forget its detrimental effects; he illustrates his point with examples of how computer technology increases design capability but stifles creativity. We must focus on Relationship Enrichment rather than acquisition of techniques of management skills, he suggests, since the more important a relationship, the less skill matters.

The book is replete with startling insights. The author states his message in his introduction: “I believe many programs in management training today are moving us in the wrong direction because they fail to appreciate the complexity and paradoxical nature of human organizations. Thinking loses out to how-to-do-it formulas and techniques, if not to slogans and homilies, as the principle management guides.”

This is a refreshing, original and thought provoking book, something different from the run of the mill stuff. It’s a management classic, a rare gem in the plethora of management literature. Do read it. You’ll be glad you did.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Magnificent Book

BOOK REVIEW - A Soldier’s Story by Omar N. Bradley


Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve

I love reading autobiographies, as there is nothing more inspiring and authentic than learning about the life, times, thoughts and views of a great person in his own words.

It’s a lazy hot Sunday afternoon. I browse through my bookshelves and pick out A Soldier’s Story by General Omar Nelson Bradley, one of my favorite autobiographies, and certainly my all time favorite military autobiography. Come Dear Reader, sit with me for a while, and let’s leaf through and peruse this fascinating book.

General Bradley (1893-1981) known for his calm and resolute leadership and affectionately called the “Soldier’s General” commanded the largest American combat force in history and rose to be the first Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is a story, not of my life, but of a campaign…I have sought... to tell a story of how generals live and work at their chosen profession the author says at the beginning of his memoirs which focus on his participation in World War II.

Candidly written with remarkable humility in beautiful expressive language it is a wonderful memoir embellished with interesting episodes and lucid characterizations of many renowned military personalities.

In this book I have tried to achieve one purpose: To explain how war is waged on the field from the field command post… To tell a story of how and why we chose to do what we did, no one can ignore the personalities and characteristics of those individuals engaged in making decisions…..Where there are people, there is pride and ambition, prejudice and conflict. In generals, as in all other men, capabilities cannot always obscure weaknesses, nor can talents hide faults…General Bradley writes in his preface which concludes…I could not conscientiously expurgate this book to make it more palatable…if this story is to be told, it must be told honestly and candidly…

The author writes in a wonderfully readable storytelling style and starts his riveting narrative on September 2, 1943, driving to Messina along the north coast of Sicily when, suddenly, General Eisenhower summoned him to tell him that he had been selected to command the American Army in the biggest invasion of the war – the liberation of Europe from the Germans. He then goes back in time and starts his story with vignettes from his early formative days of soldiering. He describes how, from General Marshall, he learnt the rudiments of effective command which he himself applied throughout the war: “When an officer performed as I expected him to, I gave him a free hand. When he hesitated, I tried to help him. And when he failed, I relieved him” - isn’t this leadership lesson valid even on today’s IT driven world where delegation seems to be taking a back- seat and excessive monitoring, interference and intervention seem to be on the rise.

Rather than encourage yes-men, ego-massage, sycophancy and groupthink, General Marshal sought contrary opinions: “When you carry a paper in here, I want you to give me every reason you can think of why I should not approve it. If, in spite of your objections, my decision is to still go ahead, then I’ll know I’m right”.

When it was suggested to General Marshall that a corps commander who had an arthritic disability in the knee be sent home rather than be given command of a corps in the field in war, he opined: “I would rather have a man with arthritis in the knee than one with arthritis in the head. Keep him there”.

“For the first time in 32 years as a soldier, I was off to a war” he writes on his assignment overseas in February 1943 to act as Eisenhower’s “eyes and ears” among American troops on the Tunisian front in North Africa.

He vividly describes the chaos after the American defeat at Kasserine, the arrival of Patton on the scene who growled “I’m not going to have any goddam spies running around in my headquarters” and appointed Bradley as his deputy, a defining moment which was the first step of Bradley’s illustrious combat career.

This is easily the best book on Patton’s stellar role in World War II, complementing General Patton’s Memoirs War As I Knew It and Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago. Though his admiration for Patton is evident, General Bradley writes about his long association with Patton with fairness and honesty and reveals unique and remarkable facets of Patton’s leadership style and character.

Sample this – Precisely at 7 Patton boomed in to breakfast. His vigor was always infectious, his wit barbed, his conversation a mixture of obscenity and good humor. He was at once stimulating and overbearing. George was a magnificent soldier. (Can there be a better description?)

Bradley vividly describes how Patton transformed the slovenly and demoralized II Corps into a fighting fit formation. “The news of Patton’s coming fell like a bombshell on Djebel Kouif. With sirens shrieking Patton’s arrival, a procession of armored scout cars and half-tracks wheeled into the dingy square opposite the schoolhouse headquarters of II Corps…In the lead car Patton stood like a charioteer…scowling into the wind and his jaw strained against the web strap of a two-starred steel helmet.”

General Bradley writes superbly, as he describes how Patton stamped his personality upon his men and by his outstanding charismatic leadership rejuvenated the jaded, slovenly, worn-out, defeated and demoralized II Corps and transformed it into a vibrant, disciplined, fighting fit organization that never looked back and went on winning victory after victory in most difficult circumstances and against all odds.

There are bits of delightful humor in this book. Commenting on the ingenuity and improvisation abilities of Patton’s staff, the author writes: “…Indeed had Patton been named an Admiral in the Turkish Navy, his aides could probably dipped into their haversacks and come up with the appropriate badges of rank…” Though, at times, the author appears to be in awe of and enamored by Patton’s larger than life charisma, he is candid, dispassionate and, at times, critical when he describes how he was bewildered by the contradictions in Patton’s character and concludes: “At times I felt that Patton, however successful he was as a corps commander, had not yet learned how to command himself.”

Their techniques of command varied with their contrasting personalities. While the soft-spoken unassuming Bradley preferred to lead by suggestion and example, the flamboyant Patton chose to drive his subordinates by bombast and threats, employing imperious mannerisms and profane expletives with startling originality; and both achieved spectacular results.

Many of us are at a loss for words when asked to qualitatively appraise our subordinates. See how easily General Bradley lucidly evaluates his division commanders, bringing out their salient qualities, in so few words with elegant simplicity and succinctness: “…To command a corps of four divisions, toughness alone is not enough. The corps commander must know his division commanders, he must thoroughly understand their problems, respect their judgment, and be tolerant of their limitations…among the division commanders in Tunisia, none excelled the unpredictable Terry Allen in the leadership of troops…but in looking out for his own division, Allen tended to belittle the role of others… Ryder had confirmed his reputation as that of a skilled tactician…his weakness, however, lay in the contentment with which he tolerated mediocrity…the profane and hot-tempered Harmon brought to the corps the rare combination of sound tactical judgment and boldness… none was better balanced nor more cooperative than Manton Eddy…though not timid, neither was he bold; Manton liked to count his steps carefully before he took them.” Aren’t the author’s understanding, observation and articulation remarkable?

Throughout the book, we find honest, frank and incisive appraisals of characters in this story – superiors, peers and subordinates – most of them renowned and famous personalities. He writes with candor about the problems of command during the planning of the invasion of Europe.

From then on the story gathers speed and moves so captivatingly that one is spellbound as one reads the author fluently narrate the events of the campaign with remarkable preciseness and detail, one realizes what an engaging and compelling book this is – it’s simply unputdownable!

All important events, turning points, and personalities are vividly described with the aid of maps, charts, pictures and appendices; from D Day (the Normandy Invasion) to the surrender of the German forces. Towards the end of his memoirs General Bradley reflects “Only five years before…as a lieutenant colonel in civilian clothes, I had ridden a bus down Connecticut Avenue to my desk in old Munitions Building… I opened the mapboard and smoothed out the tabs of the 43 US divisions now under my command…stretched across a 640-mile front of the 12th Army Group...I wrote in the new date: D plus 335…outside the sun was climbing in the sky. The war in Europe had ended.”

While this autobiography is a “must read” for military men and students of military history, I am sure it will benefit management students and professionals for it is an incisive treatise on Soft Skills encompassing aspects of Leadership, Communications, and most importantly, the Art of Human Relations Management in the extremely complex and highly stressful scenario of War where achievement of success (victory) is inescapably paramount. It is a primer, a treasury of distilled wisdom, on all aspects of management, especially human resource management. One can learn many motivational and management lessons from this book.

There is nothing to surpass the experience of learning history first hand from a man who lived and created it rather than a historian who merely records it. The Art of Leadership is better learnt from studying Leaders, their lives, their writings, rather than reading management textbooks pontificating on the subject and giving how-to-do laundry lists.

The Art and Science of Management owe its genesis and evolution to the military. Modern Management theories, concepts, techniques and practices emerged from the experiences and lessons learnt during World War II [particularly in The United States of America].

It’s ironic isn’t it? It was the military that gave modern management principles to the civilian corporate world, and today we see military men running to civilian management institutes to “learn’ management and get the coveted MBA which the sine qua non and all important passport for entry into the corporate world.

I love reading stories, all kinds of stories, fiction, fantasy, parables, fables, slice of life. I like Life Stories, biographies, particularly autobiographies, as there is nothing more credible, convincing and stimulating than learning about the life, times and thoughts of a great person from his own writings. It’s called verisimilitude, I think.

A Soldier’s Story is a magnificent book. A masterpiece, a classic! It’s enjoyable, engrossing and illuminating. Read it.


Hurry Sickness

HURRY SICKNESS - Causes and Cures



A central element of lifestyle management is the skill to creatively balance achievement and work success with leisure activities, family life and social involvements. Another critical aspect is the ability to feel comfortable at work and at home and to enjoy the experience of whatever is being done at that moment.

But nowadays, most of us are obsessed with getting results or completing one’s task. When task completion becomes more important than enjoying and understanding the work or activity one is doing at the given moment, a sure victim of “hurry sickness” is born.

The resultant constant sense of urgency is the trap of hurry sickness. One rushes to “get things done” to the point where it becomes an obsession.

Breaking this syndrome requires that you learn to enjoy experiences for the pleasure they give. When you gain pleasure from an experience, there is no need to get things done painstakingly. Enjoy experiences, not rewards, and things will get done automatically without any constant stressful sense of urgency.

Hurry Sickness , as defined from a psychological perspective, is “A pervasive and progressively urgent need to complete task in order to obtain rewards at completion without regard for other aspects of the work experience and by using maladaptive time strategies.”

They key causal factor in hurry sickness is the progressive need for task completion. Enjoying what you are doing is neglected with a morbid urge to getting it done as quickly as possible, no matter what the activity.

The need for task completion extends to non-work involvements as well (for example, activities like eating, playing, romance, making love, sex, leisure, having fun, loafing, taking a stroll, recreation, leisure, sports, pastimes, hobbies, holidaying, exercising, lazing around, dozing, enjoying music, cooking, gardening, doing nothing) and interferes with the enjoyment of these experiences because of the persistent inclination to hurry up and finish it off.

Getting things done has become such a strong need because the payoffs or rewards for completion have assumed primary importance. Your work experience has taught you that rewards always come at the end of the activity after you have put forth great effort to achieve a goal. You do not realize that happiness is not a destination but the manner of traveling.

Not only do you feel a sense of personal satisfaction from your achievements, but tangible rewards, such as promotion, cash incentives, awards, and advancements are given to you as well. With time, these rewards have become clearly linked with your self-esteem.

Each time you “succeed”, your ego, your inner self, sends a message to you which says, “You have done well. You are a commendable person because you succeeded again.” Your need for this kind of reassurance has become stronger than you would care to admit.

Time-Urgency quickly becomes a strong internal driving force towards task completion. Your life becomes a frenzy of completing one task after another. You are obsessed with time and wasting any of it becomes almost a mortal sin.

You strive to maximize your productivity by using time ever more efficiently, but you also have a sense that you are controlled by time and you don’t like it. Time is both your challenge and your enemy. A telling sign of hurry sickness is that even while relaxing, you constantly fight the time-urgency that causes you unrest.

Another way to seek to increase your output is to adopt maladaptive time-strategies. These questionable tactics do help you get more done over the short run, but you pay a heavy emotional price.

You now do everything faster, you have learned to “multitask” or “double up,” to do two or more thing at once, and you are constantly preparing for what is coming next before you are finished what you are doing now. The insidious trap is that you get something done quickly even when there is no reason to get anything done at all!

Because of your emphasis on task completion, you focus on finishing without regard for other aspects of the experience. In short, you have lost the ability to enjoy yourself while doing anything because of your incessant drive to get to the finish line. Because of this change, you have lost the ability to emotionally rejuvenate yourself. Chronic fatigue and pessimism are symptoms of this malady.


Here are some behavioral signs and signals that indicate hurry sickness:

1. Eating.

You now eat in the office while continuing to work or you just skip meals altogether. You multitask while eating. At home, you finish meals well ahead of everyone else and eat in bigger bites without savoring the taste of food. Sharing pleasantries at the table is minimal because you cannot sit long enough. Ask yourself – are you eating mindfully and relishing every morsel of your food?

2. Sex.

Relaxed and romantic sex and love-making is but a pleasant memory. The frequency has reduced and even when you do indulge in it, it is a quick encounter and you are off to sleep or on to some other “important” or “urgent” activity. Sex is less spontaneous and more mechanical these days – it has become another hurry-up-and-get-it-done-with activity. Worse, you often indulge in “faking it” in order to get it over with in a hurry so you can quickly get on with the more “important” and “productive” things in life – your “high priority” activities!

3. Communications.

Your communication patterns now focus squarely on the negative. Feedback to others emphasizes mistakes and failings and you rarely compliment or offer sincere support to anyone these days. You don’t take the time any more for pleasant chat with family and colleagues. You make demands instead of working cooperatively with others or team-building. And hey, are you on your cell-phone most of the time?

4. Leisure.

You put aside less time for relaxation and you enjoy it less when you actually try to relax. Time-off is now more of a hassle than it is worth. When you sit still, you feel uncomfortable almost immediately. You have lost the ability to “do nothing” – it’s difficult for you to loosen up and enjoy an idle hour relaxing, doing nothing. [Ask yourself why you work – reflect, contemplate, and realization will dawn upon you that the primary reason you work is to be able to enjoy your leisure, so why aren’t you taking a vacation every day and learning how to enjoy your leisure with full awareness?]

5. Family.

Family members now “report” events to you, but you share little of yourself with them. You and your spouse argue more than you talk. The satisfactions of family life have diminished in quality and quantity. Your impatience is just as strong at home as in the office.

Because you have hurry sickness, your initial tendency is to effect and expedite your “cure” in a hurry too. But this hurry-up-and-get-it-done attitude may actually sabotage your recovery. What is required is patience, perspective and the ability to deal with setbacks in healthier ways.

It is easy to blame hurry sickness on the pressures of the job and what you “have to do to survive” and on the insensitivity of the complex modern world. While each of these perceptions has a grain of truth in it, the fact remains that most of the responsibility for hurry sickness lies within you.

Your drive to get ahead is the real root of the problem and the fact is that you have lost all sense of perspective. Until you accept personal responsibility for your present state, you will not be in a position to confront and reverse the real mischief, damage and harm caused by hurry sickness.

Remember the well-known story of the hare and the tortoise. Decelerate your life a bit, slow down, walk leisurely instead of driving and do not carry or switch off your cell-phone where you can, don’t multitask, do one thing at a time with full awareness and mindfulness and learn to enjoy the experience of whatever you are doing.

Are you a victim of Hurry Sickness? Why don’t you rid yourself of this malady and enhance your quality of life? Sure, you can get rid of Hurry Sickness!


Is "Business Ethics" and Oymoron




[An article on Ethics in Business based on an insightful model to look at various stages of moral development, ethical fitness for job roles and ethical issues faced in work situations]

When recruiting new people, or promoting/appointing persons to senior / sensitive positions, a number of attributes ( Hard Skills and Soft Skills) like Professional Competence, Managerial Proficiency, Domain-specific or Technical skills, and pertinent soft skills comprising leadership, communication, behavioural and emotional aspects, and even physical and medical fitness are assessed, evaluated and given due consideration.

But does anyone evaluate a candidate’s Ethical Fitness before recruitment or appointment?

No, I am not talking about the routine verification of antecedents or background integrity checks. I am talking of assessing Ethical Fitness.

Ethical fitness refers to ensuring that people are in proper moral shape to recognize and address ethical dilemmas. Ensuring Ethical fitness in a proactive manner will result in preventive, rather than corrective, Ethical Management.

Before launching any inquiry pertaining to the concept of Ethical Fitness, it is necessary to explore the moral dimension. Moral development is a prerequisite to ethical behaviour; in fact, a sine qua non for ethical fitness. Kohlberg offers a handy framework for delineating the stage each of us has reached with respect to personal moral development.

Stage 1. Physical consequences determine moral behaviour.

At this stage of personal moral development, the individual’s ethical behaviour is driven by the decision to avoid punishment or by deference to power. Punishment is an automatic response of physical retaliation. The immediate physical consequences of an action determine its goodness or badness. Such moral behaviour is seen in boarding schools, military training academies etc. where physical punishment techniques are prevalent with a view to inculcate the attributes of obedience and deference to power. The individual behaves in a manner akin to the Pavlovian dog.

Stage 2. Individual needs dictate moral behaviour.

At this stage, a person’s needs are the person’s primary ethical concern. The right action consists of what instrumentally satisfies your own needs. People are valued in terms of their utility. Example: “I will help him because he may help me in return – you scratch my back, I will scratch yours.”

Stage 3. Approval of others determines moral behaviour.

This stage is characterized by decision where the approval of others determines the person’s behaviour. Good behaviour is that which pleases or helps others within the group. The good person satisfies family, friends and associates. “Everybody is doing it, so it must be okay.” One earns approval by being conventionally “respectable” and “nice.” Sin is a breach of the expectations of the social order – “log kya kahenge?” is the leitmotif, and conformance with prevailing ‘stereotypes’ the order of the day.

Stage 4. Compliance with authority and upholding social order are a person’s primary ethical concerns.

“Doing one’s duty” is the primary ethical concern. Consistency and precedence must be maintained. Example: “I comply with my superior’s instructions because it is wrong to disobey my senior”. Authority is seldom questioned. “Even if I feel that something may be unethical, I will unquestioningly obey all orders and comply with everything my boss says because I believe that the boss is always right.”

Stage 5. Tolerance for rational dissent and acceptance of rule by the majority becomes the primary ethical concern.

Example: “ Although I disagree with her views. I will uphold her right to have them.” The right action tends to be defined in terms of general individual rights, and in terms of standards that have been critically examined and agreed upon by the whole society. (eg) The Constitution. The freedom of the individual should be limited by society only when it infringes upon someone else’s freedom.

Stage 6. What is right is viewed as a matter of individual conscience, free choice and personal responsibility for the consequences.

Example: “There is no external threat that can force me to make a decision that I consider morally wrong.” An individual who reaches this stage acts out of universal ethical principles.

Moral development is in no way correlated with intellectual development or your position in the hierarchy or factors like rank/seniority/status/success. In the words of Alexander Orlov, an ex-KGB Chief, “Honesty and Loyalty may be often more deeply ingrained in the make-up of simple and humble people than in men of high position. A man who was taking bribes when he was a constable does not turn honest when he becomes the Chief of Police. The only thing that changes in the size of the bribe. Weakness of character and inability to withstand temptation remains with the man no matter how high he climbs.” Ethical traits accompany a man to the highest rungs of his career.

In a nutshell the governing factors pertaining to six stages of moral development which determine Ethical fitness may be summarized as:

FEAR – Stage 1
NEEDS – Stage 2

Before we try to delve into exploring how to evaluate Ethical Fitness, let us briefly ponder on the concepts of Ethical Susceptibility and Ethical Vulnerability.

Ethical Susceptibility is your inability to avoid ethical dilemmas. Ethical Susceptibility is environment dependent (on external factors) like, for example, your job, your boss, colleagues and subordinates, or the persons around you, or even the ‘prevalent organizational culture’.

Ethical Vulnerability is your inability to withstand succumbing in the given ethical dilemmas /situations. It is dependent on your internal stage of moral development in the given ethical situation.

Whereas being in an ethical dilemma is not in your control, to act in an ethical manner in the prevailing situation is certainly in your control.

Ethical vulnerability is a measure of the ease with which a man be ethically compromised, especially in an ethically poor climate. In situations where the ethical susceptibility is high, morally strong people (ethically non-vulnerable) should be appointed and conversely, only in jobs/situations where ethical susceptibility is low should ethically vulnerable persons be permitted.

If the environment is not conducive, a person can intellectually reach stage 6 but deliberately remain morally at stage 4 as he may find that he has to sacrifice too much to reach stage 6. This can be particularly seen in most hierarchical organizations where most smart employees make an outward preference of being at stage 3 or 4 (Conformance and Compliance) in order to avoid jeopardizing their careers, even if internally they have achieved higher ethical states. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde schizophrenic moral approach is at the heart of many ethical dilemmas people encounter in their professional lives and may result in internal stress due to ethical confusion.

Whenever two individuals at different stages of moral development interact with each other, both of them try to force or maneuver the other into their own appreciation of the ethical situation, thus leading to conflict. In a formal hierarchical setup, the players in the chain may not be at similar stages of moral development thereby leading to dissonance in the system. Where the ethical susceptibility is high, morally strong people (less vulnerable) should be appointed and conversely, in only such jobs where ethical susceptibility is low should ethically weak persons be permitted.

What is your stage of personal moral development? Be honest with yourself and recall the decisions you made in recent ethical situations. The six stages are valuable landmarks as they tell you approximately where you are and what changes you will have to make in yourself to move to a higher level of moral development. The ultimate goal is to engage in ethical decision making at stage 6. However, the level that you do reach will depend on your ethical commitment, your ethical consciousness and your ethical competence.

Food for Thought

What do you do if your boss is at a lower stage of moral development than you? Do you masquerade and make a pretence of being at the “appropriate” stage of what moral development and practice situational ethics to reap maximum benefits. This Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde schizophrenic ‘situational ethics’ approach may cause your outer masquerade to turn into inner reality. Do you want that to happen? Think about it!

Is there such a thing as Ethical Fitness? Or is "Ethical Fitness" an oxymoron, not relevant in today's work environment?

Dear Reader, what do you think? Please do let us know your comments.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008



Title: EMC for Product Designers
Author: Tim Williams
Elsevier [Fourth Edition, 2007] 498 pages
ISBN – 13: 978-0-75-068170-4
ISBN – 10: 0-750-68170-5

Most of us consider a number of factors, exoteric and esoteric, while designing [or selecting] our homes and in the configuration of the numerous modern technological devices and domestic appliances, most of them electrical and electronic, therein. Recently I saw a programme on TV where a Vastu Shastra expert was advising viewers not only regarding the various aspects of designing and building living environments that are in harmony with the physical and metaphysical forces but also specifying optimal locations and layouts for various electrical and electronic appliances and devices in both residential homes and workplaces. I listened with intriguing interest as he gave precise directions and specified exact locations for positioning of Televisions, Computers, Communication Devices, Microwave Ovens, Music systems and other appliances, and fascinated by the congruence between principles and aspects of Vastu and Electromagnetic Compatibility [EMC] and wondered whether the expert in reality was actually an EMC Design Engineer in addition to being a Vastu Shastra Specialist.

When you design or select or configure your house or office I am sure you consider various aesthetic, architectural, financial, utilitarian, geographical, interior and exterior design and other practical aspects, maybe even incorporate the principles of Vastu Shastra and Feng Shui, but do you give even a fleeting thought to EMC? In today’s world with the increasing use of electricity and electronic technology we are under continual exposure to Electromagnetic Field [EMFs], both inside and outside our homes and workplaces, radiating from radiating from electricity power lines, household wiring, microwave ovens, computers, monitors, televisions, communication devices, cellular phones, electric and electronic appliances and “Electropollution” is an increasingly serious form of Environment Pollution and merits serious consideration. Apart from hazards to our health, Electromagnetic Interference [EMI] is detrimental to the proper functioning of most electrical, electronic, IT, ITES, communication and technology-based systems and may cause malfunctions and even potentially disastrous and fatal accidents.

The book being reviewed – EMC for Product Designers by Tim Williams – is one of the most comprehensive reference books I have read on the subject. Comprising sixteen chapters arranged in three parts [Legislation and Standards, Testing and Design] the author lucidly covers most micro and macro aspects of EMC Management in meticulous detail. The logical sequence of topics, clear diagrams, tables and illustrations facilitate easy understanding of this complicated subject. The Design Checklist, interesting Case Studies and useful mathematical formulae in the appendices and the extensive bibliography add value to the reference book.

Whilst the earlier chapters provide an excellent understanding of the EMC Standards and the basic theoretical principles of EMI / EMC, the “meat” of the book lies in the chapters on Systems EMC and EMC Management which encapsulate all relevant facets of EMC in a holistic manner. I wish the author had included a detailed chapter on Electromagnetic Health Hazards and mitigation techniques. This vital topic concerning all of us humans seems to have not been accorded the due importance it deserves and I hope the author includes a comprehensive chapter on pertinent aspects in the next edition.

I commend this book – it is an excellent reference book for designers, students, practising professionals in the field and a useful addition for all engineering and technical libraries.

[Book Review by VIKRAM KARVE]

Design of futuristic electromagnetic conflict (EC) systems using soft systems modelling-system dynamics (SSM-SD) methodology

Please click the link below

Vikram Karve