Managerial viewpoint
B.S. Thaur

Winning at Work Against all Odds
by Ashwani Lohani.
Wisdom Tree. Pages 168. Rs 295.

Winning at Work Against all OddsTHE management caught fancy of the business world after the government launched economic reforms about 14 years back. Though there is already a galore of books and other material on management in the market, Winning at Work Against all Odds is shades different. The author has dwelt exclusively upon his hard-boiled experiences during his managerial assignments spanning over 25 years in the Railways and other public sector corporations. Starting as an apprentice engineer in the Railways and reaching peer levels, he witnessed in flesh and blood the behaviour of staff, attitude of bosses (mostly from IAS cadre) and dictates of mandarins comfortably ensconced in Delhi Durbar. The author being pen-savvy has thus enriched the retinue of management techniques with his self-devised mantras by bringing out this book.

The old adage—it either needs a sense of fear or a loving interest for a job to be done— has come alive in the book, as its title suggests. Since the author has been in government service, the book running into 19 small chapters discusses about government or public sector departments/organisations. The real-life happenings that he faced and successfully tackled have been quoted.

The first chapter, Question the System unfolds that we treat the rules, procedures and systems so sacrosanct as these cannot be questioned. Resultantly, deliverance has suffered in the past years. A typical case was of a public sector enterprise, Hotel Ashok, Delhi. The hotel had long been in red and was accumulating losses. It was going to be sold. The author, as Chairman/Managing Director of the Indian Tourism Corporation, accepted the challenge to bring the hotel into profits. When his managerial skills started bearing fruit, he was shifted, considering him to be a roadblock in the "sell-off". The mantra is "be honest to the core—to men, to organisation and question the system if it hinders your march to the goal".

Interestingly, quoting another case of disinvestments of Ashok Hotel, Bangalore, short of castigating the IAS bosses and other vested interests, the author has candidly brought to light how clandestinely the things work at the higher echelons of the government, pinpointing the infirmities and pockets of colossal wastages in the organisation and departments he worked. The author demonstrated how to tame the rigidity of rules and systems to achieve targets, which earnestly made him to evolve certain mantras inked in this book.

In a chapter, Decide, not Deliberate, the author aguishly states that the sarkari sector is adept in the art of indecision. The file is to be disposed not closed in the sarkari mantra. The author derides the system, that even the colour of napkins used in public sector hotels has to be decided by a special committee and the Managing Director. A classic case of "appointing a public relation agency in the Tourism Department, I found that the file had 100 pages of noting without reaching any decision. Thousands of similar files keep on rounds for months as if file making is the goal".

On productivity, giving many instances from abroad, the author cuts short and rues that in the developed West, there are only two persons to build a road against a full battalion in India.

The book is a must read for managers anywhere in saddle, also warrants reading by bureaucrats to bring them round to change the diehard system, which is hindering the development in every sphere.