Uncertainty In Management

The answers to the questions raised in this post will come, hopefully, in the comments box for this post. I am however sure that there will be comments that will provoke thought and perhaps some interesting discussions that may produce the answers. Perhaps even from GLH!

“What Would Dad Say”
, is a fascinating blog with some unusual insights posted by G L Hoffman. I have made a habit of visiting his blog to enjoy some humor, some management topics and some odd subjects. GLH’s taste is eclectic as is his knowledge. His diagrams are crisp and say more than words can ever say. None of his posts ever fail to appeal to me. His tag line “Frequently wrong. Never in doubt.” says all that there is to say about his blog!

Recently, GLH wrote about a Management Topic to which I took exception, and you can see his post, my comments and his response to my comments. I suspect that he is just being polite.

The post however got me thinking about my days in Management and this post is about my own beliefs which need not appeal to everyone but, for what they are worth, I give them here. I have not been in active Management for the past eight years and so, I may even be outdated. The principles however, are unlikely to have changed dramatically in the interim.

My ability to articulate my findings have been greatly enhanced by my study of Vedanta, a school of Indian philosophy. The Bhagwat Geetha, particularly has been an inspiration and so has been my Guru’s hammering of some eternal truths into my thick skull. (Another post on the differences between a Guru and a Teacher is on its way!)

In Management, as I find in general life too, there is one thing that we cannot avoid. That is, some kind of action. We cannot just live a life without taking some action or the other. The only exception to this rule is when we are in deep sleep. Even when we are in the dream state, I would call the process of dreaming as action. From waking up, getting up, brushing our teeth and so on and so forth, we are constrained to be in some kind of action, physical or mental in our waking and dreaming state. All our actions are also with an outcome firmly held in our minds and expected to accrue as a result of the action that we take. Even brushing our teeth, though may become routine and which we do not think about, is done with a view to a obtaining a result, which could be hygiene, prevention of disease etc.

All actions therefore are taken with an end result in mind and undertaken either consciously, or as a habit and even unconsciously. An example for the last could be lighting up a cigarette without even being conscious of doing so.

For the purpose of this post, which started off, because of the post on Management in GLH’s blog, I shall restrict myself to those actions that we take consciously and with a result or outcome in mind.

To undertake any action, we need

• knowledge,
• skill and
• effort.

These three factors can be fine tuned to a great extent by training, repetition, and application/ discipline. With these three inputs, we complete taking the action and expect a desired outcome.
The outcome of any action however can be only of one of four possibilities.

• Get the opposite of what was expected,
• Get more or less than what was expected,
• Get something completely different to what was expected and
• Get what was expected.

It is common sense, and not rocket science, that these possibilities are the ones that we live with on a day to day basis.

Since any one of the four possible outcomes can become a reality for us, we must be prepared to accept whatever comes. If we are prepared thus, a lot of avoidable emotional upheavals can be eliminated from our lives.

The three inputs, knowledge, skills and effort by themselves however, are not adequate to produce any result for an action. There is the fourth dimension to this paradigm and that is the uncertainty aspect, which I call ‘chance’ or divine intervention. Since I am a believer, for lack of a better alternative, I accept whatever comes my way, arising out of actions taken by me, as the Lord’s grace and get on with the next project. Once the outcome has become a reality, my famous tag-line, ‘Wisdom By Hindsight’ comes into play, and forms the basis for my ‘knowledge, skills and effort’ inputs for my next endeavor increasing the chances of getting the desired result with the same inputs the next time around.

This was the point that I was making in my comment in the post where I had said that flexibility and doing one’s best under the given circumstances is all that one can do. All wisdom coming from the so called experts is by hindsight, given a certain set of circumstances. Unfortunately, the circumstances and the people involved keep changing all the time, or at least most of the time, and this is why ‘Managers’ are needed in any case!

No amount of formal education in Management, or Economics, both of which I had acquired, can prepare one for the uncertainties of actual Management. If they could have, we would not be in the kind of mess that we are in now would we? We should never have failures at all, should we not? Just take a look at books like “In Search Of Excellence” by Tom Peters, or “Good To Great” by Jim Collins. Companies that were doing well, admired and the authors extolled, fell flat within a few years of being written about! If all this is true, why do we then continue to have fancy colleges and universities teaching these subjects and why do students study them and employers, hire such students?

Absolutely,’The’ last paragraph. – I took the advice of Jean and cut pasted the original last paragraph as the first paragraph for this post. I think that the effect is really startling. What do you think?

Rummuser Dot Com

Grannymar, in her post : Barrel Of Memories had inserted a picture of a statue and elaborated on that. In my comment on that post, I had asked her what her take was on the statue that is part of the mast of my blog. Grannymar, being Grannymar said – “As for the man on your header… Did his wife lock him out without his clothes? Seriously I wondered what the history was behind it. Perhaps you will write about it someday.”

I had promised her then that I would indeed write about it and this is making good that promise and I dedicate this post to that indomitable lady with fifty toyboys. I sincerely hope that at least some of them are as robust as the Thinker on my mast.

The name for my blog came to me all of a sudden. I was contemplating what to call it for a long time, while I was blogging desultorily under more conventional names in two social networks. I kept being told by various people that I should have my own domain name and a brand which will make the blog unique and I got down to find out the economics of getting that organized. Once I found that I could afford to have my own domain name, the next step was to brand it. This is where, I got bogged down. There were many names that I thought up, only to discard after mulling over them.

Finally, when I was about to give up and just call it Ramana’s Reflections, I got a call from a friend of mine who was my drinking buddy way back when I used to drink. This was about half a century ago and both the friend and I were struggling salesmen who could only afford Rum which was then the cheapest drink sold in bars. Cheaper of course, was the illicit liquor called Gudamba, which is the local equivalent of Moonshine of the USA. We used to imbibe that too on need! For many years thereafter, Rum was my drink of choice and my already short name got further shortened by well meaning friends to Rummy. It helped that I used to play Rummy too.

My friend who is now an American citizen, when informed about my difficulty with the branding of my blog promptly suggested that I call it Rummy’s Ruminations. (He retired as a Senior Marketing honcho for a large American corporation and was full of ideas like these!) My friend’s wife, another very good friend, shot it down immediately as being suggestive of Rummy’s ruinations.


It was after this call and while I was still thinking about it, that I had my Eureka moment and got the inspiration Rum short for Ramana as well as for my nickname Rummy and muser for the guys prone to musing, merged to form Rummuser. Simultaneously, I also got the idea of putting in the image of the nude sitting man as I knew that the statue was called The Thinker by Auguste Rodin and I had seen the original in Paris many years ago. I just knew that I had to incorporate that in the mast as well.

Now to answer the more important question about his nudity and the possible reason for it, I leave it to the experts to explain.

“The Thinker was originally meant to be Dante in front of the Gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. Dante as a voluptuous naked male may seem absurd to those who think of the images painted in his time and after, but Dante’s head does bear some resemblance to the profile of The Thinker. Moreover, Dante’s headdress is distinctive and seems to be indicated by the markings Rodin made on his working copy of The Thinker.

Why is The Thinker naked? Because Rodin wanted a heroic figure à la Michelangelo to represent Thinking as well as Poetry.

Rodin’s Answer

Rodin himself wrote about his intention:
The Thinker has a story. In the days long gone by I conceived the idea of the Gates of Hell. Before the door, seated on the rock, Dante thinking of the plan of the poem behind him… all the characters from the Divine Comedy. This project was not realized. Thin ascetic Dante in his straight robe separated from all the rest would have been without meaning. Guided by my first inspiration I conceived another thinker, a naked man, seated on a rock, his fist against his teeth, he dreams. The fertile thought slowly elaborates itself within his brain. He is no longer a dreamer, he is a creator.
The work of Rodin resonates with the great aspirations of the 19th century, the century of Darwin, Marx and Wagner. But in his equation, The Thinker = the Poet = the Creator, Rodin was way ahead of his time. The greatest German Philosopher of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, only began to formulate this equation in the 1930’s in such works as “The Thinker as Poet”, “What are Poets For?” and “…Man Dwells Poetically”. Now it is a commonplace of humanities departments, repeated endlessly by such luminaries as Derrida, Lyotard, Richard Rorty and their followers.”

I hope that my posts will be saved for posterity and some experts some time in the future will also say that I was way ahead of my time. What do you think are the chances?

I Love The Railways.

My love affair with the railways started when I was just a wee lad of five or six years when our uncle used to visit us from upcountry by train and bring with him stories of his journey. My first trip by a train was in a train like this.

That trip was when I was nine years old and took me with my uncle and aunt with whom I was then living, from Madras (now known as Chennai) to Bombay (now known as Mumbai), where my parents were living. It took all of two nights and a full day of wonderful travel and I can still remember the journey as though it was just yesterday. Subsequently, I have made many train journeys, but the first one sticks out in my memory for being the most memorable. The particular smell of the railway, the coal fired engines, the peculiar noises made by the running wagons, the noise and bustle of Indian railway stations, the outside of the railway stations with its attendant rickshaws or tongas or bullock carts, all are part of my growing up process and experiences, which sadly many young people now a days do not have access to.

In the beginning of my sales career, I had to undertake almost all my journeys by train and in those days, the early sixties, we normally traveled by over night trains and stayed at either the railway retiring rooms or just used the waiting rooms to bathe, change and work the market during the day only to catch another train in the evening. The nodal point of most of my travels used to be railway stations and I got quite friendly with many waiting room attendants, station masters and other staff members.

My mother used to worry about my running to catch a train and falling or have other accidents and once I started to fly, I used to joke with her that I will not try and catch a running plane or jump of a flying one.

There are many stories that I can write about individual journeys, some thrilling, some funny and some tragic. Each etched in my memory like as though it happened yesterday. I have used the metaphor of friends made in a train journey to be forgotten after the journey in many of my training programmes. I have also used some of the things that I had observed during journeys to illustrate some point or the other.

So, when I come across anything about railways, it always gets me nostalgic as this article in the Economist did. I just could not write about my own fascination with steam engines and the railways till I have been reminded to by my friend Sandeep, who too is a railway buff.


Most of Indian railways use Diesel or Electric engines like the one shown above, now a days and almost all our steam engines have been mothballed or sent off to the Railway Museum in New Delhi. The site is worth a visit to those interested in the railways.

The Indian Railways is one of those positive legacies left behind by the British which has survived, been expanded and now part of the life line of modern India. I for one, would prefer to travel by train whenever I can spare the time. I love the railway food, the tea, the vendors and just about everything else. I still love everything about it and take great pleasure in just watching trains go when I am stuck at a level crossing or from the top of a bridge over a railway line. I love to receive and send off people from the Pune Railway station. I am hooked to the smells!

I am sure that there are others there who have similar affinity to the railways and look forward to some interesting sharing from them.

Subliminal Messages.

I am of the firm opinion that we are constantly being bombarded with messages overt and covert, which play an important role in forming our opinions, values and judgments. The purpose of this post is to request that we become aware and not allow ourselves to be brainwashed by vested interests.

Just yesterday, a friend who is a widow and I were discussing our being single and how well meaning friends and relatives keep suggesting ways and means of handling that peculiar situation after losing a spouse. My friend said, it is easier for men as if they are gray they are considered to be distinguished and mature and if the same thing happens to a woman, she is considered to be over the hill. She further added that older men are able to find younger women but the reverse does not happen.

I ventured to suggest that all these are due to subliminal messages constantly being hammered away at us as to what is beauty, what is modern, what is style and so on, which are all superficial values, but which impress us nevertheless both at the conscious and subconscious level. Us ordinary people get plastered with these values and the only ones to benefit from this massive over load of information are the guys who sell products to get you there.

Even women not finding younger men seems to follow the logic of such brain washing. I for one do not understand why this should be so and we have any number of cases of older women having had long sustained and wonderful relationships with younger men.

We seem to be letting our entire universe be sabotaged by such frivolous values that mankind seems to be losing out to businesses who stand to benefit. Even the media seems to be under some compulsion to follow such inane policies like milking some odd event to death as in the case of Carrie Prejean and her adventures with her title, her breast implants and so on.Just look at this news item and the amount of time and space wasted on breast implants to see why I am chagrined with such frivolity.

This is but the tip of the iceberg. Even the incident of gray hair, is something that I find silly to say the least. I told my friend that my late wife Urmeela never dyed her hair and I found her gray hair quite attractive and elegant, to which my friend retorted that I am not the representative sample of decision makers! Similarly, while I am all for weight management for health reasons, the obsession to fight nature like some of my younger friends are doing after child birth, is nauseating to say the least.

This is the first time that I am venturing into writing something on this subject though I have commented on various blog posts on similar lines. I wonder what sort of responses I am likely to get for this rant!

And lest Gail, be disappointed, let me close with some humour.

I am informed by a post in Grannymar’s blog, that widows join other widows and form clubs called “Minus One”. Can you imagine what would happen if widowers formed clubs with the same name?