practicing alertness

Practising total alertness

The Chanakya of the business world, Radhakrishnan Pillai explains the importance of vigilance to create a sustainable organisation.

The central vigilance commission has declared that various government organisations observe a “vigilance awareness week”, every year, including public sector units. It coincides with the birthday of Sardar Vallabhai Patel – the iron man of India. This year, the vigilance awareness week will be observed between 7 to 11 Nov.

Sardar Patel had a very important role to play in the building of modern India by over powering the princely states and uniting them under a central governance once and for all. The same was done by Kautilya in 3 BC. He united the various kingdoms during those days under a central governance to be led by his student, Chandragupta Maurya.

Kautilya was the first person to have systematically given “vigilance” a very important dimension in a state organisation’s management structure.

The oxford dictionary defines vigilance as, “…keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties”. From a corporate stand point it gives us two angles to while view the same subject. It is to protect oneself from external threats as well as internal mismanagement.

At the external level, an organisation has to be alert about the dangers such as competition and takeovers. For this, we need to have a very powerful intelligence network. In most companies today, market intelligence is a very important activity. Even technology can be used for getting valuable information.

It is the primary responsibility of the leader to keep continuous check of all important data as well as activities of one’s organisation.

However, being vigilant ‘internally’ is more important and very difficult. The problems within an organisation are much more difficult to manage, as we deal with our own people. An army commander may be able to fight and withdraw the enemy troops at the borders, but may not be able to handle the revolt of his own young son.

Important information of accounts, customer databases and management strategies is very critical to an organisation. These needs to be protected from being leaked out.

How does one do that? Arthashastra gives us guidance to handle these problems. Kautilya says,

“He (leader) should constantly hold an inspection of their works, men being inconstant in their minds” (2.9.2-3)

It is the primary responsibility of the leader to keep continuous check of all important data as well as activities of one’s organisation. The leader has to be very alert about the movements of his employees.

First, he has to give them targets and deadlines to keep the employees focused on their work. Secondly, he has to continuously monitor their work.

Why is it so? Because the human mind is very inconstant by nature. It is very fickle. Employees will have a tendency to slip into laziness if deadlines and targets are not set. There is also a possibility of one getting influenced by corruption if the fear of punishments is not set in the minds of the employees.

As Akio Morita, the founder of Sony corporation said, “I am dealing not just with my employees but with the ‘minds’ of my employees”. Therefore, it is important to understand the employees at the mind level to prevent corruption as well as to ensure productivity from each of them.

Thus, vigilance is ‘total alertness’ on both fronts – inside and outside.


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