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Time to plan

Mediocrity as a way of managing is an admission of failure. Comfort with status quo is also a sure sign of being unfit. Are you aiming to turn your organization into a more competitive, collaborative and admired player in your industry? Are you relentlessly pursuing higher goals?

Our world has become very competitive where only the ‘fit’ will survive. This oft repeated notion is driving many managers and CEOs to high levels of stress caused by fear of the increasing uncertainty in the corporate world. A common consequence of heightened insecurity is mindless frenzy. This entails economic and social costs. Bad decisions, strategic or tactical, made in haste, are a case in point.

To effectively counter the waste of haste, we need to make time to look ahead and plan. In this context, Dr H J Witteveen quoting Hazrat Inayat Khan illuminates us: “Every plan has a period of development and if man has power over his impulse by retaining the thought silently in mind, he allows the plan to develop and to take all necessary changes that it may take for its culmination. But when the impulse expresses the thought, it – so to speak – puts out the flame, thus hindering the development of the plan. The wise speak with their mind many times before they speak to anybody. ”

A quick review of history may help us gain valuable insights. From the beginnings of creation to the present day, we see stories replete with examples of survival of the fittest. The word ‘fit’ though deceptively simple, has pervasive significance for us all. The Random House College Dictionary describes ‘fit’ as: proper or becoming; adapted or suited; qualified or competent; worthy or deserving; prepared or ready; in good physical condition or health; of the right size or shape – all keys to survival and possibly endurance.

Why then, the hostility in some quarters, to a management philosophy which promulgates that only the fit must survive, particularly in the underdeveloped and developing economies? This philosophy holds that the fit continue while the unfit either improve their act, or leave. One factor that explains antagonism to such a thought is the lack of social safety nets in our society for those who are rendered jobless as a consequence of ‘right-sizing’. Lack of employment opportunities for the unemployed is yet another powerful argument put forward by the ‘unfit’ in favor of making existing corporations fatter and slower, instead of leaner and more responsive to customer needs.

We are trapped in a vicious cycle which legitimizes hiring people regardless of merit. It is believed that at least this way we will have fewer disgruntled job seekers on the streets! As a consequence, our public sector corporations and government departments, in particular, are grossly mismanaged and inefficient. Examples of management malpractice in large entities like Pakistan Steel, Pakistan Railways, PIAC, OGDCL and
others are heartbreaking.

Wouldn’t having healthier and fitter organizations stimulate a nation’s economy, increase employment opportunities, attract investment – local and foreign, and provide greater revenue to the exchequer? This would a virtuous spiral we can all benefit from by ensuring that only the ‘fit’ lead the much needed transformation in their respective organizations. This way everyone wins and there can be prosperity for many, if not all.

The fastest is not necessarily the best and the strongest is not the only basis for endurance as strength can easily be squandered. Something has to be said for our innate ability to act with patience and appropriately in a variety of situations. Our ability to adapt, reflect, change and transform is what makes us fit.

Fitness applies to individuals, organizations and nations. It is the leadership team in corporations that need to shoulder responsibility for preparing its people to deal with the changing market dynamics – locally and internationally. The inspiring change led by Dr Ishrat Hussain at the State Bank shows what is possible if we become sincere to our role as leaders.

Building responsiveness, flexibility and agility in any enterprises will remain the key leadership challenge. This is achieved by involving people at different levels within the organization in decision making and orchestrating plans for continuous capacity building. Adherence to principles of good corporate governance points the way.

Every discipline in life, whether worldly or spiritual, has a clear sense of what is fit. The quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan points to what is needed in managers in most situations. Patience, reflection, contemplation, discernment, analysis and timing are essential ingredients that contribute to fitness of any professional.

Setting new standards of performance and quality is therefore the essence of every professional’s job. Commitment to excellence is just that. However, pursuit of excellence remains a pleasant abstraction if we fail to embed tangible dimensions of caring; dreaming; expecting; and risking in the company’s corporate culture.

Conduct an honest self-appraisal now, by asking yourself the following questions:1. Am I prepared and ready for what I need to do today, next week, next year and in the coming decades? This can only be determined if I know where I am headed; if my goals are clear, for the immediate, medium and the long term. It is one thing to wish for things to happen. It is quite another ball game to actually make them happen! Can wishing alone qualify me as being fit?

2. Am I worthy and deserving of what I am getting and hope to achieve? This largely depends on my self concept. How I see myself. Many think they are mere cogs in a big wheel. While others think no end of themselves i.e., they view themselves as gifts from God to mankind, without doing a thing about it. Both views are extreme and quite counterproductive. This begs a moment for reflection. Is your potential infinite? Is what you do contributing to the big picture?

3. Am I adapted or suited to my environment? Am I flexible enough to adjust my behavior to different people and situations? Am I like water in a stream that flows freely around obstacles and meets with the ocean? Am I open to learning and new ideas? Do I display empathy – being able to see and feel the pain or joy of another?

Mediocrity as a way of managing is an admission of failure. Comfort with status quo is also a sure sign of ultimate doom. Are you aiming to turn your organization into a more competitive, collaborative and admired player in your industry? Are you relentlessly pursuing higher goals? If so, where is the evidence? Simple to understand is not easy to execute.

Make time to plan. Involve your team, your internal and external stakeholders, and transform your organization. Put it on track for sustainable growth. Inspire others.

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