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Change Management: Combining Management with Ancient Philosophy

New Delhi is getting a makeover in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in the city. And the government has gifted the capital city its latest showpiece, the state-of-the-art Tube, the Delhi Metro Rail. Already 600,000 daily commuters on the Metro Rail have cut their travel time by 75%. And Delhi’s pollution has reduced by a third since this clean and fast mode of transport began.

New Delhi is getting a makeover in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in the city. And the government has gifted the capital city its latest showpiece, the state-of-the-art Tube, the Delhi Metro Rail. Already 600,000 daily commuters on the Metro Rail have cut their travel time by 75%. And Delhi’s pollution has reduced by a third since this clean and fast mode of transport began. But what makes the Rail extra special is that it’s testimony to how modern management techniques can combine with ancient Indian philosophies to build a truly efficient, ethical and empowered organization.

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The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is one of the rare Indian government undertakings that are completed on schedule and within budget. While in many countries this is not uncommon, in the corrupt and callous public sector of India this feat is unheard of. The management has introduced yoga and distributed copies of the ancient Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita to boost mental discipline of employees and discourage corruption.

DMRC’s uniqueness lies in how it has managed “soft issues” related to the general public affected by it. To ease out traffic snarls and general chaos around construction sites on main roads, DMRC deployed special personnel to assist Delhi Police. Cars driving through muddy construction areas were treated to washes by DMRC personnel. Other similar initiatives showed DMRC’s commitment and built strong public opinion in favor of it. DMRC’s concern for the commuter can be gauged from the fact that even the elevators feature ‘sari’ meshes to stop the flowing robes from getting caught in the gap. And now that the Metro Rail is in operation, DMRC is training National Cadet Corp (NCC) students (NCC is similar to Boy Scouts) to teach travel etiquette to the infamously unruly Delhi public.

The man behind this is a 74-year old, yoga practicing civil engineer. E. Sreedharan is famous for building Konkan Railway, the biggest railway project since India’s independence. With the public sector’s reputation so tainted, Sreedharan has attained an iconic status and is one of India’s most respected personalities. And business management students as far away as Harvard are visiting India to study the secret of its success.

DMRC’s success proves that buildings and machines do not make an organization. An organization is its culture and its philosophies guide its people. In an era of thoughtless focus on quarterly results and stock market performance, there seems to be a dire need to dig deep into ancient philosophies with resplendent pearls. Can regulations alone bring about ever-lasting corporate culture transformation, or is a much deeper change needed?

Anupam Mukerji • Bangalore, India • www.mmi-india.com

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