Yearly Archives: 2020

Integrating Diversity in the Organisation

Unity in Diversity is one of the fundamental principles of life; it is also the right foundation for the long-term success and effectiveness of a group like a community, organisation or nation. As an organisation expands and diversifies into many distinct units or division, it has to forge a common ground which gives identity and stability to the group. This article examines this problem of forging unity in diversity in an organisation in the form of a case study.

The Challenge of Unification

Liu Seng, COO of Matz Hotels recalled the concluding remarks of his boss, Vijay Malhotra, CEO and the founder of Matz when he took charge as the COO of Matz. Vijay told Seng:

“We built our company in the beginning on the strategic principles of uniqueness, diversity and radical decentralization. 

We can say we are fairly successful in this strategic thrust. But the main problem we are facing at present is the lack of a common identity. Each unit head is running his or her hotel-like his or her little fiefdom without much connection or allegiance to the larger corporate whole. 

I strongly feel if we want to move forward and further, we have to build connectivity, a common thread, and a unifying theme. I would like to take this as your first mission.”

Matza Hotels is one of most diversified hotel chains in Asia with its hotels in almost all the big commercial and tourist centres of Asia like Singapore, Hong Kong, India, China, Thailand, Sri Lanka with a wide range of city, beach and mountain hotels; hotels for families, couples, singles, business people, historical, young, old; spas, conference centres. The company had always preferred to emphasise the distinct personalities of its properties, each of which is tailored to its locale. Operations were highly decentralized. 

Each hotel retained its own identity, managed its own business with full P\L responsibility, ran its own incentive programme and handled its relations with key-intermediaries. The benefit was diversity and flexibility. The downside was, as Vijay Malhotra explained to Seng, lack of a larger and common identity of the Matz brand or group among the employees as well as customers.

Seng thought what Matz needs at present is a common culture that binds employees and effective branding which projects a unique corporate identity of Matz to its customers. As the first step in this difficult journey, Seng decided to have personal discussions with senior executives of Matz and the managers of some of the most well-managed and profitable hotels in the Matz chain.

Seng’s first choice was Kim Borswik, Manager of a luxurious Matz hotel in Hong Kong. Kim was a young, attractive 32-year old, South Korean woman, with a successful career in the hotel industry. Kim greeted Seng with a warm smile and a soft handshake. “Welcome to Hong Kong,” said Kim. “Is this your first visit to Hong Kong.” Seng said, “I have been here a few times before.” After some formal small talks, Seng asked in a soft voice, “Kim I have already briefed you regarding what we are trying to do to give a new direction to Matz. Tell me frankly what do you feel about it.” Kim looked straight at Seng’s eyes for a few seconds and said, “I hope you don’t mind if I am frank.” “In fact, I prefer and appreciate frankness much more than a polite acceptance,” replied Seng. After a few minutes of silence Kim said thoughtfully: “Seng, culture, branding is traditional management methodologies. But I am not sure whether they are needed for a richly-diversified company like Matz. If you want culture, this diversity, uniqueness of each hotel and the independence and autonomy of our managers, is our culture. Regarding branding, it is a western concept and companies in the west spend much money on this concept. But we don’t know to what extent it helps in improving customer response. You must note Seng, that most of the highly successful Asian companies do not spend much money on branding. As long as our hotels are making money, employees and customer are happy. Then what is the need for creating a new culture or branding?” 

Seng felt a genuine appreciation for the sharp mind of this young woman manager, though he did not entirely agree with her. 

“You have made a valid point, Kim,” said Seng. “However don’t you think we need a common uniting thread running through our hotel and present a common image to our customer on what we stand for as a group.” “Maybe,” said Kim “Look, Seng, I am not against culture or branding, but it requires much thought and consideration.” Seng said with a smile, “Yes, I agree. Thank you, Kim, for your thoughtful points, which I will keep in mind.” As Seng rose from his seat holding Kim’s hands, Kim said, “There is one more point, Seng. I am telling this based on my interactions with other managers of Matz hotels. This independence, autonomy we have here is a unique advantage of Matz for attracting talent. 

I came to Matz because of this autonomy rejecting other lucrative offers from more reputed hotel chains.”

As Seng went through his first round of discussions with Matz’s managers he found most of them had more or similar views as that of Kim. There is a general resistance to the new initiative. How to overcome this resistance and build common ground?

Building a Binding Purpose

The resistance from Matz’s managers is not surprising. They are living a comfortable life in their own small fiefdom and therefore they are apprehensive that the new initiative may disturb the status quo. There were valid points in Kim’s argument especially related to branding, autonomy and attracting talent. However, more diversified and decentralized a company, greater the need for a unifying force that can create a larger whole which is more than the sum of its parts. 

If the organisation can create such a larger whole, it enhances the energy level of each unit as well as the organisation as a whole, because the energy of the whole flows into each part.

Seng is also right in thinking that culture can be such a unifying force. The essence of culture is shared vision, values or a purpose. Each company has to find a unifying system of values. But what is the criterion for determining these values? The system of values for an organisation must have a universal as well as a specific dimension; it must contain elements of universal human values like truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, unity which evoke the deeper and higher self in people and inspire them towards self-transcending action; it must also contain elements which reflect the unique nature of the company and the geographical, national or continental environment or culture in which the company grew up or functions. 

An example of such a system of values in the hotel industry is Taj Hotels in India. Recently, Taj was admired for the exemplary bravery and selflessness of its employees in handling the terror attack and protecting its customers. 

This exemplary behaviour is the result of a carefully ingrained culture based on universal human values as well as the more specific values of the Indian cultural tradition. In a thoughtful article on the culture of Taj in Harvard Business Review, Rohit Deshpande and Anjali Raina, articulate the following principles as the basis of Taj system of values:

§ Placing customers above the Company

§ Taj recruiters look for three character traits: respect for elders (how does he treat his teachers?); cheerfulness (does she per­ceive life positively even in adversity?); and neediness (how badly does his family need the income from a job?

§ The Taj Group prefers to go into the hin­terland because that’s where traditional Indian values—such as respect for elders and teachers, humility, consideration of others, discipline, and honesty—still hold sway. In the cities, by contrast, youngsters are increasingly driven by money, are happy to cut corners, and are unlikely to be loyal to the company or empathetic with customers.

§ Taj recruiters emphasise more on hiring people with integrity and devotion to duty than on acquiring those with talent and skills.

§ What the Taj Group looks for in managers is integrity, along with the ability to work consistently and conscientiously, to always put guests first, to respond beyond the call of duty, and to work well under pressure.

We can see here that Tata System of values contains universal elements like integrity and character as well as values that are specific to Indian culture like respect for elders. Seng must try to evolve such a unifying system of values for the Matz group. Since Matz is confined to Asia, its value system has to reflect the uniquely Asian values. However, shared value is only one aspect of cultural unity. The other factors are:

§ Sharing of cultural knowledge and information related to different locations and nations where the hotels are situated.

§ Rotation of manager and executives across geographical location

§ Common training, development and leadership programmes for employees at all levels.

§ Active involvement and participation of all hotel managers in formulating future plans and strategies of the group as a whole. 

This kind of interactions between people at various units of diversity creates a sense of unity and synergy among employees and also enhances the energy-level and creative potentialities of collective life.

The other issue is branding. As Kim points out, companies in the west spend so much money and effort on branding, with questionable impact on the customer. 

However, presenting an attractive and meaningful idea or image of what Matz stands for to the customer can perhaps have a positive impact on the customer. For Matz, the brand idea could be providing the “Asian experience” to the customer, which means giving a clear understanding and a vivid experience of the unique intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual genius of Asia. There are well-known ways of creating this kind of experience like for example:

§ Permanent exhibitions in each Matz hotel which presents a deeper insight into the unique history, culture and society of Asia and also that of each nation where Matz hotels are located.

§ Small libraries with books containing the best literature on Asia

§ Audio-visual displays like films, video

§ Cultural events like music and dance

§ Shops displaying and selling the arts and crafts

§ Restaurant with Asiatic food.

Courtesy: Chartered Secretary

M.S. Srinivasan

O. P. Dani

FacebookTwitterGoogle+
13Feb/20

Integral Yoga of Works: Practioners Experiences by Larry Siedlitz

(A review and a commentary on the book Integral Yoga At Works, A Study of Practioners’ Experiences working in Four Professional Fields, by Larry Siedlitz, PhD, Indian Psychology Institute, New Delhi)

Yoga has become a well-known word all over the world though the true and deeper meaning and aims of Yoga is much less known.  In the Indian paradigm of Yoga, Karma Yoga, Yoga of works, is an important part of triune path of Yoga expounded by the Indian scripture Bhagavat Gita, the other two paths are Yoga of knowledge and Yoga of Devotion.

There is no dearth of expositions on Karma Yoga, but most of them tend to be more conceptual than practical experiential.  Here comes the importance of Sri Aurobindo’s writing on Karma Yoga and this book under review which is based on Sri Aurobindo’s vision of Integral Yoga.  Among modern Yogis, Sri Aurobindo has written extensively on Karma Yoga based on his integral vision of Yoga, his deep and profound spiritual experiences and his detailed and practical guidance of his disciples on the path of Karma Yoga.

The author, Dr. Larry Siedlitz, has worked as a research psychologists in USA and a practitioner of Integral Yoga. This book under review examines the experiences of the practioners of Sri Aurobindo’s path of works in Integral Yoga in four professional fields: business management, health care, education and the arts.  As the author of this book Dr. LarrySiedlitz describes the content and purpose of this book.

“In the present study, I examine how the Integral Yoga can be applied in four general fields of professional endeavour; business management, health care, education and the arts….  The study will examine how present day practioners of Integral Yoga apply the Yoga in their work, first in a general way, and then more specifically what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have written about how such works can be approached and carried out in these four areas.”

Siedlitz classifies the experiences of the practioners into following categories:

  1. Merging of life, work and yoga:

Practioners make no distinction between work and sadhana or between work and life or between sadhana and life.

  • Equality towards Money:

Money is not a primary motivation in work.

  • Service as a motivation in work:

Service to the Divine, done as an offering to the Divine is the primary motivation in work.

  • Feeling the Divine’s presence in work:

Aspiration to feel the divine’s presence in work and bring it down into all the activities of life.

  • Feeling that one is an instrument of the Divine:

As the practioner progresses in the path and in her self-dedication to the Divine she feels that the Divine Force is doing the work in her and she is only an instrument of the Divine, which brings efficiency and harmony in work.

  • Fulfilment in life and work:

Work and life pursued in the spirit of Karma Yoga brings a deeper meaning to and a greater fulfilment in life.

Siedlitz presents an interesting summary of the results or outcome of these experiences of the practioners, which may be described points-wise as:

  1. A life of sadhana and service to the Divine can be truly fulfilling and bring contentment and lasting happiness.
  2. The long-term practice of Yoga brings greater meaning to life and in addition it brings the presence of the Divine with its many boons of peace, light, freedom, joy, harmony.
  3. When professional work becomes an integral part of sadhana, the work then becomes a conduit for the action of the divine in the world.  The practitioner becomes a conscious and participating instrument of that higher divine working, which is wonderfully fulfilling.
  4. The participants of the study clearly experienced the Presence and Power of the Divine in their lives and work, felt their action, saw their result.  When they had a conscious contact with the Divine, their work and lives flowed with greater harmony and become more effective.  These findings suggest tremendous possibilities for other who do their work as a part of Yoga.

Does these conclusions present a very rosy picture of Karma Yoga as an easy path to fulfilment and perfection? Most of the practioners in this book describes only their positive experience like for example, Thomas, a manager of a commercial unit says:  “For instance, I don’t know a lot of software.  I just click here and there and it comes….it’s kind of purely intuitive.  The vibration comes from above and it gets realised.  You are not the one doing it.  That is a beautiful sensation.  You make the moves: You take the scissors when you need it, you need a number of cards and you take exactly the right number of cards.  Those are micro moments.  The more you are concentrated and penetrating into the things you have to do….the more it comes.  Those are again what I call Ananda moments.”

This gives an indication of the higher potentialities of yoga. But is this the entire nature of the path of Yoga, a smooth and blissful journey to the Divine?  There is the other side of it made of difficulties and struggles and dangers and pitfalls.  Siedlitz is very much aware of this part of the journey.  As he points out:               “This is perhaps an important point to remember for less-experienced practioners, because, sadhana also brings us face to face with the difficulties of our nature which can sometimes seem intractable until they are come.  So it is not without its difficulties, but we have seen that these difficulties can be viewed as opportunities for growth and the participants felt supported and helped to overcoming challenges.”

Since this book is more for beginners rather than for seasoned or advanced practioners, it may not be necessary or desirable to stress on the difficulties in the path, which may scare off the potential seeker.  So Siedlitz has done the right thing in focussing on the higher potentialities and possibilities of Yoga.  But still, a concise narrative or summary of the type of difficulties which the practioner may face in the later stages of Yoga could have made the book more balanced and also helpful to the seeker in understanding the hard realities of the path of Yoga.  The author could have asked the practioners to describe the precise nature of the inner and outer difficulties they have encountered in the path and how they are able to overcome them.

Siedlitz stresses constantly on the idea that difficulties are opportunities for progress.  This may be true in general, but it happens only when they are overcome which is not easy on the path of Yoga, especially the inner difficulties like anger, sex, inertia, unwillingness to change, conflict in relationships and the obstinate resistance, revolt, hostility and refusals of our lower nature against our higher aspiration.  In Yoga, these difficulties and opposition of our lower nature and all the hidden and suppressed desires, darkness and falsehoods in it raise with great force.  As Mother says in one of her conversations: “what obstinate resistance in this lower nature what blind and stupid attachment to the animal ways of being, what a refusal to liberate oneself.”

This brings to another very important aspect of the path of Yoga which I feel is not given sufficient attention in this book.  It is the inner discipline of Yoga.

For example, there are the well-known disciplines of Yoga like inner purification of the mind and heart from negative movements like anger, jealousy, lust and greed, overcoming ego and desire, and in the path of Karma Yoga, the discipline of Equanimity and offering all our works as an offering with a complete renunciation of the results of our action.  Siedlitz talks, mentions “equality to money” as one of the experiences of practioner.  But in Yoga equality is a much deeper, inward experience of a calm, undisturbed equanimity under all circumstances, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant and in the midst of all the vicissitudes and dualities of life like pleasure and pain, joy and grief, success and failure, praise and blame.

Siedlitz could have queried the practioners on what is the nature of the inner and outer disciplines they were pursuing and alsop about the difficulties they had encountered in putting them into practice and how they are able to overcome them?  This would have added a practical dimension to the book and very helpful to the aspiring seeker who wants to pursue the path of karma Yoga.

All these are just suggestions.  The book as a whole is brilliant, contemporary and relevant; it is very different from the traditional books on Yoga because it is based not on ancient texts, but on the teachings of modern masters of Yoga like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the experiences of living practioners of Yoga working in professional fields.  We need many such works on Yoga to make this ancient Science a living force for steering humanity towards its next and future step in evolution and its spiritual destiny.

M.S.Srinivasan

FacebookTwitterGoogle+