Sunday, November 6, 2011

What is the 'Purpose'?

An IRMAN in a corporate job can lead to some difficult questions. I have had the opportunity of bumping into some eminent alumni at airports, but avoided interacting with them for the fear of revealing to them where I work.

That is less disconcerting than the questions I ask myself every night. "What is the purpose?" is something that the Prof KVR, one of IRMA's legendary professors once told us to ask ourselves. If the purpose is ensuring a good bank balance, then probably we are not doing something right. That is  more or less achieved once you pass out of a good B school and you are lucky to be living in a high growth economy.

I think the question "What is the purpose?" is less philosophical than most of us think. It is in fact a very pertinent question for managers. There is no definite answer. But it is a question we must answer. Managers in the current scheme of things are as powerful as heads of nation states and religious leaders. As leaders of coporations, they wield immense power. As the financial crisis of 2008 showed, managers can create havoc if they do not manage properly.

For the last two months, I have been in an operations role handling activities of a New Store Opening for my company. As I handle warehousing which means ensuring that the right goods arrive at the right time, the purpose is to ensure that goods worth more than 10 million are in my store and on the shelves. This involves working with manual labourers. The bigger purpose as a manager, is to reduce drudgery. It is to ensure smooth operations. It is basically to follow basic principles of management. Most of us do not care if the manual labourers work 14 hours a day. Or if we keep the truck waiting at the dock because my documentation process is slow. But it affects all of us. For example, I see truck drivers who have transported goods from far off places. They are deprived of sleep and proper food. The only thing they are concerned is about unloading the goods and leaving. If as a manager, I keep them waiting because my documentation  process is time consuming, it affects them adversly. We all hear about truck accidents dont we?

So the purpose as a manager is to reduce drudgery, to make life easy for those who are working for me. Because in the scheme of things, they will only follow directions. As a manager the purpose is to give directions which ensures effectiveness and make work little less stressful while being aligned to the company goals.

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