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Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister of Britain is reported to have said that a week is a long time in politics. If a week is a long time in politics, in the world of modern business and finance, time can be just as punishing and demanding. That said, it can still be surprising to find successful companies suddenly in a weakened state and when that happens, the common temptation is to attribute it all to what is flippantly stated as “bad management.” However, there are times where companies are let down by the very values that made them successful. And when values fail, especially the essential core, that defined the very existence of that organisation, its soul fails, falters and fades into nothingness. What is true for companies is equally true for individuals. The rise and fall of men and institutions can be invariably traced to value systems that they follow.

If a week were a long time, what about a fortnight? An eon? Perhaps much more. How else could one explain the happenings in the first fortnight of May? Who would have dreamt in his wildest dreams even as late as in early May the fall of World Bank President Wolfowitz and Dayanidhi Maran within the next few days. Why did this happen? And what are the linkages between the two seemingly disconnected yet apparently similar events. After all I am no Dan Brown with his Kabbalistic techniques and astounding ability to encrypt symbols. Yet I needed to decipher these events. As solutions eluded me, I approached Dr. Arjun, the management expert and my partner at the chess club precisely on these issues.

“Business, especially when you carry it out successfully, gives you a kick. So does politics. When you combine the two, it does give you a far mighty kick that perhaps nothing else on this planet can ever give you,” Arjun explained as an opening gambit. “And when they fail?” I enquired interjecting him, forgetting for a moment Arjun always paused before he gave out his knockout kick. “You get kicked instead, especially when you fail due to lack of integrity,” he replied. “How crucial is integrity for men managing public affairs?” I enquired. In retrospect it was a foolish question. This is how I end up consistently on the losing side with Dr. Arjun in chessboard. Nevertheless, Arjun was quick to have an impeccable Sicilian defence to my poser. He quipped, “Narada, I believe that integrity is not only crucial to anyone at the top, but to me that in essence, defines public life.” This observation encouraged me to probe him further, “In your long years of association with men both in India and abroad, have you ever come across anyone managing public affairs who were completely independent of any type of influence, especially personal?” I asked him trying to outflank him. “Ha Narada,” he said as went into deep contemplation and added a queen’s gambit after a few pensive moments. “Narada, every individual is frail and susceptible to some external pressure. Consequently, I believe that there are only two types of managers of public affairs, one who have been caught in the act of compromise and others who haven’t been.” Classical Indian defence, I swear. Sensing my tacit approval to this observation, he added, “You have a better probability of meeting Yeti – the mythical snowman - but not an independent director in a public limited company. And invariably, independent directors are from the same community as the promoters. Naturally, this does not raise eyebrows in a world where virtually everyone expects everyone else to compromise.” I waited patiently for Dr. Arjun to deliver his final manoeuvre. “The rise of these two men has been indeed spectacular. Nevertheless their fall has been no less stunning. But like many before them their fall can be traced to some degree of personal compromise,” and added, “The problem is that as yet there is no system, mechanism or an instrument invented by man to prevent World Bank from becoming Wolfowitz’s Bank and DMK from becoming Dayanidhi Maran Kazhagam.” Checkmated by Dr. Arjun, I resigned.

Last modified on Sunday, 07 July 2013 07:36

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