Mahatma Gandhi

By | Prabodh Sirur | Vice President – HR at Manipal Technologies Ltd.

Thanks to some notification, every government office in India has a Gandhi on their wall. This, however, is not mandated for the private sector. But I have seen Gandhis on their walls too, a different type of Gandhis. This article is about these Gandhis.

As a warming up exercise, let me first write about the Gandhi on the walls of the government offices.

The first thing that happens on each 2nd October is that this Gandhi photograph is taken off the wall and cleaned. It is then garlanded by some senior person. People assemble in offices to speak about the Mahatma and his teachings.

Sometimes, an ‘innovative’ event of cleaning the office is undertaken. Some talented women sing Gandhi songs. In some offices, employees are encouraged to wear an ethnic dress on that day.

Many offices invite employees’ children for a fancy dress competition. Some children participate in painting competitions held on that day to create awareness about Gandhiji’s thoughts.

Some children plant trees around the building in Gandhi’s memory. The day is well spent remembering Gandhi.

From 3rd October onwards, the Gandhi is back on the wall and goes silent.

Let me now come to the Gandhis of the private sector. You visit any company and you will see their Gandhis on the wall just behind the reception. Many of them look like this picture – blur, hollow and meaningless (Photo credit – PRWEB).

The most common Gandhis on the walls are the Vision statement, Quality policy, Company values, Brand promise, Mission statement etc.

In most companies, these Gandhis are left in the lap of the HR Department. HR is supposed to own them. In many companies, these Gandhis are used only as part of the induction training.

Oh, let me come out of this helplessness mode and share some of my positive memories. This also gives me an opportunity to remember my old colleagues.

Hope my sharing helps you trigger some new ideas.

Provide visibility to those who live Values

I remember this event vividly that happened maybe a decade ago. We all felt that we should do something about our company values. We went to Rachna, ideation incarnate and our head of communications, for help.

Rachna came up with a good programme. The highlights of her plan were – one Value a month. Create awareness, create communication and do voting at the end of the month to select employees who live that value of the month. Recognize/reward top 5 employees.

The plan was implemented very well; everyone loved the communication and there was active participation in the voting. We gave good visibility and recognition to the winners.

What we missed out – many such programmes do not contain a plan for sustainability and the plan for ‘what next’. We created a database of all these Ambassadors but we didn’t have any concrete plan on what this band of great guys should do in future.

Integrate Quality Policy and Brand Promise in Performance Management

We took help of our technology people to build a tool for this; it was more of a repository of performance objectives built around our quality policy and the brand promise. I want to remember my colleague Lakshminarayana Pottumarti who built a great tool that displayed appropriate performance objectives depending on the role and career level of the employee. The exercise helped all of us to bring down some of the neglected Gandhis from our walls and make use of the words in our work.

What we missed out – we gave easy access to SMART goals to employees but this could have been supported by appropriate audit and training.

Create an environment to help people live the vision

Most companies have the words ‘team building/supporting others to succeed’ in their vision statement or in their values. I remember two attempts that we made in this regard in our organization.

We gave the responsibility of building a tool called Value register to Vijay Anand, one of our senior ‘Corporate citizens’. This tool allowed employees to collect points on every action they performed for others to succeed. It was great to see brotherhood thriving because of this idea. I remember Vijay got Sunita, his home-maker and a techie, to create this tool. The girl did it pro bono for us. I am sure she will be happy to read her name here.

Another colleague, Ravindran, came forward to support our idea called ‘my wishing well’. Anyone who was hardpressed for time could log his/her requirement in this tool. All registered volunteers would get a notification as soon as a task was logged. Any of them could volunteer to take up this work. The requestor had the choice to chose from the volunteers (I recently found that this idea has now become commercialized by a company called Taskrabbits). This tool helped many volunteers to do tasks that they had never done before. Some got good exposure because they volunteered to do their seniors’ tasks.

What we missed out – We could have some continued engagement events to leverage from these employees who put-in extra hours to help others. We could have tagged the words ‘corporate citizen’ against their names in our database for future use.

In the process of writing this article, I found a good read in Patrick M. Lencioni’s article about different types of Corporate Values viz. Core Values, Aspirational values, Permission-to-play values and Accidental values. I have sent him a thank you note already.


Postscript:

Whenever I create an article, I want to write something about Impressionism. The Impressionist art movement is my source of inspiration. It reminds me to think about innovation and about challenging the status quo.

Impressionism (1860-1890) is a 19th-century art movement. It was started by painters to challenge the then existing style of painting. They re-defined painting as an impression of one’s mind rather than what is seen by the eye. They turned the artistic establishment upside down with their revolutionary new approach to painting.

Today I want to remember James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). Whistler was an American painter who worked mostly in England. His quest was to find a parallel in music and painting. Some of his painting series are given names from the world of music e.g. symphony, harmony, arrangement etc. Whistler began to establish his technique of tonal harmony based on a limited, pre-determined palette quite early in his life.

One of his famous paintings, normally known as Whistler’s mother, is actually titled Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1. This painting was immortalized when the US Post issued a stamp based on this painting on Mother’s day in 1934.

The painting below by Whistler is called Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights. This was painted in 1872. This is from his Nocturne series. The word Nocturne painting was coined by Whistler.

The tiny lights along the shore look to me like the ‘fireflies’ in the motionless darkish expanse. They make me feel optimistic about life.

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