Management lessons to be learned from the road

by · April 17, 2012

[This article has been contributed by Tapish Bhatt]

Driving is an enjoyable activity. More so, because it lets the drivers think and analyse their surroundings. Driving style is a direct resultant of a person’s personality and says a lot about his attitude.

Having about 50000kms of tarmac under my belt across terrains, I thought to put up some general rules that incidentally, also hold true for managing an organization.

  1. Transparency helps: It might be jazzy to have an opaque car (with dark all round film/high slanted rear windshield) where the guy following you cannot see what’s in store for you, but in case of a slight hiccup, you shall be the first one to be hit from the back. This is especially true for a company with an upward trajectory, as people rarely follow you downwards.
  2. Stay on the right side of the law: Not following the law may have an adventure/gain quotient, but over the long term, law will sure catch up with you. A Rs. 45 + 10 minutes regular pollution check shall help you escape the INR 100 penalty + 20 minutes haggling time.
  3. Identify the leader, and follow him closely: How many times have you seen a car just zipping through the crowd, and more often than not, another motorist clears the maze by following the leader. It calls for immense faith in the leader as also the ability to steer clear of the leader’s path if he gets into a roadblock. If you don’t have the ability to create, have the ability to imitate.
  4. Keep your eyes open for potential roadblocks: A steady cruise may be brought to an abrupt halt the moment you fail to notice the bullock cart that is crossing the way. It may not be your competitor and may not be planted by the competition, but can destroy your dream run.
  5. Watch your back: Similar to the point above, it is necessary to know what is behind you in order to adapt your course/speed according to the situation.
  6. Watch out for potential opportunities: Many times, you can spot an empty space in the fast moving lane. Other times you can judge from the speed difference of two cars that a space will get created soon. Have the eyes to spot these spaces and the power to move in when it seems beneficial. The Oberoi group is still reaping the gains of the Vilas hotels, all of whom were taken on cheap lease.
  7. Never on autopilot: Autopilot works in autobahns where the perfect competition scenario is unfolding. In a competitive scenario, you need to keep an eye on the work, and on the business.
  8. Automatic transmission is easy; its the manual that will take you ahead. Automated processes can help iron out the inefficiencies of the regular operations. However, it is only the creative people who can invent processes dynamically. Value these people and let them choose their processes. It may not work sometimes, but usually you will have a winner.
  9. Size matters both ways: An SUV may look intimidating in the rear view, and people might give it the first right of way, but in case of a block, it will be stranded for longer while a hot hatch can just weave its way through. Similarly, a behemoth may intimidate its competitors, and dissuade them from entering the industry; but in case of a change, a nimble footed organization will change course and succeed, leaving the giant stranded.
  10. There is no point trying to beat down a super car; chase it nonetheless: Know your territory, there is no point trying to beat down a 500 bhp supercar with your 75bhp hatch. Even though, trying to chase it will take you ahead of your siblings. Fight with people your size, and aim to get closer to the ones that are bigger. There is a parallel in the Aviation industry, Maximum Power and maximum continuous power. MCP refers to the power that willl keep you going for a longer time and return the best results. Not always do you need to run out of breath.
  11. Carve your niche: This requires knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Similar to last point. Don’t give up thinking you are weak. Identify your strengths and play the game on those. A 150cc bike can give a supercar a run for its money when it comes to negotiating a busy street. Similarly, a ZTE/ Huawei can succeed in the Indian market selling Tata Photon Internet Dongles.
  12. Both the machine and the driver are equally important: A 500 bhp car will crash in the sidewalls in the hands of an incompetent driver. Also, a Michael Schumacher behind the wheels of a Fiat Padmini will not win rallies. The organisation and the human resource need to be properly aligned for best performance. It includes training and development of the employees, as also constant updating of the organizational resources.
  13. Humility matters: Even if you dream of the sky, keep your eyes on the ground (low-beam). A high beam can set you on a collision course with another vehicle. If your eyes are up, he will never be able to see your actual purpose, and your course may be considered defiant. Even a lowly clerk in a government office, or a journalist, or a rights activist can derail your huge plans.
  14. Using the public transport may cut the clutter at places: Instead of driving through till the city centre, park in the fringes and take the subway to the centre. It may be uncomfortable and void of exclusivity, and you may need to adjust to other people, but you will travel faster. Similarly, lobbying alone may get you exclusive privileges, but the possibility is low; align to a bigger group to target better results.
  15. Safety: It’s for your own good, not for the police. It may not be fashionable, but a safe shell will protect you in case of an eventuality. Had Kingfisher followed a proper and sound business model instead of investing in fashionable frills, it would have been in a sound (if not great) condition today.
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