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Moment of Truth Moid Siddiqui,
Managing Director, Intellects Biz

Buddha once said, “What we are, is the result of what we have thought!” This adage is as true as the fragrance of a rose or the shining beam of the sunlight. We all are the products of ‘What we have thought’ – negative or positive! Positive thoughts make us positive; negative thoughts make us negative.

“What we are, is the result of what we are taught,” is another way to understand the reality, which is equally true. As ‘human beings,’ we are the products of our parents and teachers, and as ‘managers’ the makeup of our initial bosses and organizations. Some of us are lucky and some are unlucky. Moving ahead in space and time, when I look in the rearview mirror, I only see the green pastures in the background and find no ‘sand traps’. If I’m not considered immodest, I would say, I am an extraordinary lucky corporate guy. The reason is simple – “What I am, is the result of what I was taught by BHEL!” If I could get success in my career, scaling the heights from the first line executive in BHEL Bhopal to Director (HR) in BEML and Executive Vice President (Human Potential Development) Nagarjuna Group, it was owing to my initial grooming by the great bosses in the grand organization – BHEL. I owe a lot to BHEL. If a disciple can pay back to his guru in compensation of the learning that he imparted, I would have thought of finding some way out. But there is no way by which a disciple can compensate for his learning. One can never pay costs of his learning to his guru! Any amount of prayers and ‘thanks giving’ are but an iota of compensation – grossly inadequate! My indebtedness to BHEL is of the same magnitude.

“It horrifies me that Ethics is only an optional extra at Harvard Business School,” says Sir John Harvey-Jones. Sir Harvey-Jones’ frustration is genuine. I can understand his feelings. But don’t have any such regrets because in the monastery where I started my corporate learning, ‘Ethics’ was not an optional extra, but it was a compulsory subject. I learnt the initial lessons of ‘ethical values’ in business management in BHEL. When my 7th management book, ‘Corporate Soul’, published by Sage publications, topped the list of the best selling books, my first thanks went for BHEL. I received the first lesson of ‘spiritual management’ in BHEL.

People dwell in gross misconception when they believe that Values are better thought in space! Some trade upon Values through their sermons and some others misconceive ‘Values’ merely as a plural with three consonants and three vowels! What they talk does not walk, this they understand clearly. Yet, many CEOs decorate their organizations with ‘values’, which hang like the frills. BHEL has never made any such tall claims, but always it stood tall. They, say, “The tall see the farthest.” BHEL could always peak into the future, managing ahead of the time, by holding ‘values’ steadfast – the Vision and Values statements were the later products – some ‘pattern of language’ was given to what BHEL actually practised. One can live values only by demonstrating them in one’s behaviour – the commercial organizations can’t seek any exemption.

I don’t know if the young generation of BHEL is fully aware of their rich heritage! It will be an unpardonable sin, if they don’t take the legitimate pride to be the part of this great organization. Let me share with the new generation some of my ‘Moments of Truth’.

The time was the early seventies of the yester century. I was working as Welfare Officer in BHEL Bhopal.

Once I was given an assignment to draft the maiden social security scheme of the company – Death Relief Scheme (DRS) – to provide some monetary relief to the widows or the dependants of the deceased employees. I drafted a simple legal-jargon free scheme. It was presented before an ‘empowered committee’ for its formal approval. Believe me – no member of the committee was above the level of a ‘manager’ (For sure, Peter Block had not invented the concept of ‘empowerment, then). A Deputy Chief Engineer headed the committee. If my memory is still with me, his name was Mr. S. Chatterjee.

“Why have you provided a too legalistic clause, in such a simple scheme?” asked Mr. Chatterjee, referring to a particular clause.

“Just as a safe-guard against any cheating,” I soberly gave a justification. I had purposefully inserted the clause because some of the BHEL Bhopal employees were transferred to other units of BHEL and they wanted to continue their membership in the scheme of their ‘so-called parent-unit’. So, I was a bit extra guarded in protecting the interests of the member-employees of BHEL Bhopal.

“How much will each member of scheme lose in case of cheating?” he asked.

“One Rupee,” I promptly replied.

“How much will the beneficiary get in case of cheating?” He shot another question.

“Twenty thousand Rupees,” I coolly replied.

“What do you think – who has the chances to cheat?” His eyes were biting me.

“Wife… I mean, widow…, widow of a deceased employee.” I don’t know why I so badly fumbled!

“Then, I sincerely wish,” after a pause he told, “Let the widow cheat.” He went on, “Let the widow get Rs. 20,000 even by cheating – after all what we lose is only a buck per person! Why are you Personnel fellows so chicken hearted! Delete the clause – let there be some purposeful ambiguity to a widow’s advantage. Let her cheat all of us – after all she has lost her everything…” I could see tears swelling in his eyes. He had a heart that could empathize the feelings of a widow – a heart that beats for others.

His words were harshly beating my eardrums. Suddenly I came out of the ‘legal slumber’ of my profession. There is a distinct difference between HRD Systems and ‘Criminal Penal Codes’ – we can’t equate our human assets with the hardcore criminals by devising systems akin to the criminal laws, I realized. The magnanimity of management lies in compassion. Sometimes ambiguity in systems is desirable. Wisdom dawned upon me: ‘It is noble to err on side of mercy.’

Yet another Moment of Truth (MoT)…

The time was mid seventies. A ‘theft had taken place in the canteen. The cook, it was reported, had stolen 12 laddus (sweets). The chief manager (Personnel) of BHEL Bhopal had ordered a prima facie inquiry, intending to take stern action against the pilferage.

I was called by my boss, Mr. O.W. Prahalad, who was junior in hierarchy to the chief manager (Personnel).

“I assign this task to you,” he told me handing over the instructions of the chief manager (Personnel). “But I want you to set an example in the history of disciplinary cases. You shall initiate ‘holy’ disciplinary proceedings against the cook.” He paused for a while, then explained, “Find out what made the cook steal the laddus. Does he have too many children? Are they half-fed? Perhaps his beloved young daughter demanded sweets from him – there could be many causes!”

He gave me a 10-rupee note. “Take some sweets along with you for his children,” he said. “I am sure they need it. Oh, and take care that you do not embarrass the cook by harshly querying him. Let him not feel too small. Try to rehabilitate him psychologically.”

I was looking at the great soul – my boss! Tears blinked in my eyes. Once again wisdom was imparted to me: Some holy methods are much more effective than the mechanical legal proceedings!

Those were the days! Those were the learnings! No wonder I could reach the pinnacle and grow to the highest positions in the discipline of HR, both in public sector and private sector organizations. BHEL is a great ocean. I could get only few drops from it – the honey-drops of wisdom. They made me what I AM! I just don’t know how to put back what I owe to this great organization!


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