7 Management Lessons From the Bihar Election Results

By on November 10, 2015

7 Management Lessons From the Bihar Election Results [Battleground Bihar: Bihari Vs. Bahaari]

The serpent, the king, the tiger, the stinging wasp, the small child, the dog owned by other people, and the fool: these seven ought not to be awakened from sleep… Chanakya

Now that the Bihar election din has come to an end with a decisive mandate to the incumbents (RJDU), and a thrashing (to say the least) to the ruling nationalist party (BJP), many are miffed on all sides as to what happened. After all there were such high pitched communal cry’s, amidst much name calling, mudslinging, sloganeering, rhetoric, posters, tweeting, digital campaigns, and what not from both sides. And then the RJDU sailed through with a significant majority having the last laugh, while likely wondering too, how & why? In retrospect, the battleground can be overtly (and somewhat simplistically) be seen as a fight that involved largely the tenets of organization, strategy and communication. And so, significant lessons can be ordained on leadership, management and organization aspects.

Here are 7 key management takeaways that are worth pondering for students of strategy, organization behavior and marketing campaigners

  1. Strategic focus is must at all times. While tactics has often been proven to win over strategy (specifically on short term requirements and objectives), tactics even more so wins when core strategy of opponents gets relegated to the background). Incumbent Nitish Kumar for one never lost sight of his core strategy of development as the need for Bihar, nor was he short on tit-for-tat tactics He did not have the same (initial) high decibel strategic pitch of BJP, via skills, governance, progress/ vikas etc, that was subsequently compromised to tactical and polarization catcalls of divisiveness – and shifting the strategic progress game from a modern progressive India approach to a caste and religion based segment logic (/ arguably a divisive India) approach. Ergo, diluting strategy and leaning on yesteryear traditional tactics (that has possibly served well before 2014 period). Worthwhile to recall Michael Porter – “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”
  2. It is important to create a perceivably safe(r) environment for all – ‘Always’: Bihar is India’s 13 largest state (with ~ 100 mn people) and has relatively poorer socio-economic indices. However has the youngest population of below 25% years. It behoves our (so called) national and state leaders, that in the new India post 1994, that has now ~ 90% cable + satellite + mobile penetration (being more connected to the world), to acknowledge that progress and aspirations are not the prerogative of select 4 or 5 rich states only. War cry’s alluding to barbarism and jungle raj, do no good for neither children nor women, who are relatively more aware of safety, abuse of power and abusers per se (now even in the lower SEC segments too). Apropos it behoves leaders and strategists to spell out the mantras of peace, progress and prosperity. After all there is enough documented and global learning’s to suggest, that peace and prosperity best reign in, when minority issues are fully addressed and protected – and woven into the national fabric. Even in organizations there is much energy invested in protecting minority shareholder rights. Regulation particularly has evolved over time to ensure same. Across the world’s most mature democracies, both diversity and inclusiveness are celebrated and seen as much needed lcm factors – for innovation and growth. In recent times Hillary Clinton has been seen championing the same. Something to learn here? Might is right is an axiom of the yore and should have no takers in today’s world – tact, diplomacy, strategy, floor management, reaching out etc are all needed and need to be demonstrated in earnestness. Even the traditional Hindu/ mythological regimes do not espouse this axiom. So asking people to go to different countries at the slightest provocation in mandating tones does not work (and to say the least is the hubris factors of the self ordained high and mighty – which could well be interpreted as intoxicated egos. Many organizations at some time or the other have been prey to this behaviour and do come out when they start learning again –  and some even transform themselves amazingly – and the change always starts at the top, with leaders personally demonstrating the need to learn and grow. Examples are galore IBM, Nokia etc). Seemingly no takers for such mindsets or for people who do not want to create the progressive future – involving jobs, skills and growth. In contrast the incumbent CM, Nitish Kumar stood his ground on assurances of progress and well being for women, children and diverse communities via safety and education nets for all
  3. Nobody goes out quietly. Leave room for the unexpected. Specifically in fiercely fought battles and markets and more so in politics where challenges are but to be expected: History does tell us that that bickerings, grudges and memories are never short lived in politics and have a long memory. They may not be called upon always, but are there as forces to be leveraged to rally allies and resources, when needed. And in the quest to not go out quietly, like minded friends and foes allied to project a wider and deeper flank via a historic and unfathomable alliance (that seemingly was never there). As was witnessed with the coming together of three major parties- who managed to put aside their rivalries and unite to project common good.
  4. Give a vividly positive shape to the future via meta-ness. Let sleeping dogs lie and let bygones be bygones. Don’t bring out evil. Reign in the negativity and/ or the negative elements. There is more power in positive thinking and positive energy (as has been amply demonstrated by the statesman like approach of Shri Nitish Kumar): Anecdotes to instil fear, hate and divisiveness via overt references to primitive era politics via beef bans, dog slurs or threats otherwise, does not/ has not worked well for pluralistic societies. Bihar over last two decades has not had organized riots and if any has had relatively more communal harmony. The average voter of today’s Bihar was born post 1990. Again it behoves to know well, the terrain, the new players and the needs of the customers. As an aside, even the mood of the country has moved from that of an angry young man (before 1990’s ala Amitabh Bachchan) to that of more global, modern romantic youth like persona (as donned via the Shahrukh khan types). Apropos strategy and communication cannot be static nor rooted in the past only. It has to be forward thinking and progressive to say the least – not working to bring out or create evil via divisive and polarization references to religion, forward castes or backward castes (It’s also time our political leaders pondered, as to who is really forward in our society! After all at an aggregate level the whole nation is so backward (and primitive) on all leading socio-economic indices).
  5. Packaging is the face of the brand, product (and sometimes even strategy). It is (/ was) important to put a face to the leader. After all the package/ packaging for sure has to project credibility, resonate the (politico-economic) values and be perceived as trustworthy. Even more so in controversial times. BJP failed to put up the face of a leader who would have been seen as a worthy opponent to Mr Nitish Kumar. They relied heavily on the prime minster and their party president to pull them through. And in the absence of a perceivably focused progressive growth strategy, came across as controversial and fledgling (as the party supremo’s resorted to personal attacks and innuendoes). Meanwhile Nitish Kumar became a reliable face to the story of vikas/ growth and his imagery as a ‘Vikas Purush’ only grew more as competition intensified
  6. Walk the talk. It helps should leaders make themselves useful to all and to keep their commitments: A significant output of this at all times and at all places is team spirit. Any victory can be kissed goodbye should this be missing (or is not factored). Hence leaders need to seize opportunities to win allies, rally forces, demonstrate fairness, carry along the disgruntled and be able to put all to work towards the larger organization objectives and goals. Having this clarion call instils not only the much needed sense of purpose and mission but also becomes a driving force in itself to keep diverse forces united at all times – for work is divided, goals are aligned to, tasks are cut out and everyone participates / or wants to contribute, regardless of rank, bias or prejudices. No army commander from time immemorial has ever won a battle without the wholesome participation of his armies and majors.
  7. There is no substitute for keeping a civil tongue in public forums. Commitment to keep this strong and respecting the people, terrain and local traditions are a must at all times. One may not know or not follow the local traditions, but abusing or being perceived as abusive only polarizes and gives vent to fear and outrage – and the resultant quick labelling as the outsider. In this election this manifested very rapidly as Bihari vs. Bahaari – putting even the prime minster of the nation on defensive in his rallies. In any rally or communication it helps to positively acknowledge the state on its history and past – if and when such references have to be taken, than to be vitriolic and air toxic fumes. Often challenges bring out the best if/ when a leader is up to it. The incumbent CM demonstrated this every time in a statesmanlike manner and when he did retort, it was yet keeping a civil tongue (at all times). In this he got noticed as more determined and more committed to surge through while harnessing energies of all his team members and supporters. In sum it is important to be smart enough not to lose sight of the vision and focus on maximizing the teams ability and potential to the maximum than be carried away and lose your tongue and yourself.

There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth….Chankya


 

 

About Subba Rao NV

Subbarao is an entrepreneur, management professional and a hands-on business leader with +20 years exp in consumer goods, tele-communications, wireless applications/ solutions and retail sectors, where he has handled large teams and multi unit businesses. Earlier he held VP- Sales & Marketing, COO/ CEO/ Apex positions at TATA Docomo, Bharti Airtel, Tanla Solutions and Conagra Foods (India). Having started at P&G as a management trainee, he has worked and led over 25 brands. Over the years he has lived and worked in different geographies including US, Japan and Vietnam, while holding p&l and growth responsibilities for market & value share leadership. In 2012 Co-founded Reboot Systems (India), a refurbished computers business - set up the brand, business and retail/ franchisee store model. After successfully exiting same (03/2015), is working to launch and establish his next start up - www.myfirstbigjob.com ( a platform based integrated 'jobs-skills one stop portal - presently in development stage'), to find a way out of skill-gap issues and to address the problems of skill-divide. Subbarao is also a member of Hyderabad Angels and a charter member of TIE and in his spare time runs a blog called best matters. [ www.cocreate.subbaraonv.com/ email: subba@subbaraonv.com ]

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