Monday, March 23, 2015

Words of Importance - Synergy

I have been lax in just assuming that the meaning I know for words IS the correct meaning for those words ('HOW could you? When was the last time you were right about anything?' you exclaim? Well, I see no reason why I should not assume - even wrongly - the essential correctness of my position, when it is such a widely practiced pastime for the rest of the world). This once, though, I shall redress that error and take recourse to dictionary meanings. This word - synergy - apparently means 'the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.'

Of course it stands to reason, does it not? Take a man and a woman, for example. They are one individual each and, if they get together, they should tot up only to two. If they really did add up to only two forever, there would be no population explosion, would there? Synergy, that is what it is. (Oh! And, by the way, if they just added up to two, everyone around them would be pestering them about this lack of synergy, in the Indian context). Or, take any three people in some parts of India. When they get together, you end up having six political parties. Synergy, again!

How I do digress! The point was about how important a word synergy was to management. (Oh! You did not realize that THAT was the point? It's Ok. NOW you know). In the management context, though, this word synergy has acquired a lot more nuances. The way it is used makes you think of the employees like Russian Ballet dancers - each doing his own steps to the same tune and creating a lovely choreographed scene. Harmony - that is the word I was looking for! Synergy, when used by managers, somehow gives an impression of a harmonious whole.

Wait a minute! Harmony? In organizations? Where the marketing guys are convinced that the production guys insist on producing saris, when the whole world is clamoring for jeans AND the finance guys get in the way of bagging huge order with piffling objections about not selling at Rs. 80/= things that cost Rs. 100/= to produce? Where the production guys feel that the marketing guys create unnecessary difficulties about selling slippers made ONLY for the left leg, thus messing up production efficiency, instead of finding a market of one-legged people hopping around on their left legs; AND the finance people get in the way of production efficiency raising stupid questions about inventory pile-ups? Where the Finance guys are convinced that the rest of the organization was in a fierce competition to see which of them could bankrupt the organization first? Harmony, indeed!

See, all of us tend to underestimate the management chaps. Do you really think that they do not know about lack of harmony within their own organizations? So, they rarely use the word for issues within the organization, whether to mean the dictionary meaning or with the additional embellishment of harmony. No! Synergy was a word most lovingly used when management people talked of "Mergers and Acquisitions". In other words, when they were joining another organization and creating a melded whole in a marriage of equals (Mergers) or where they were swallowing up another organization whole (Acquisitions), this word synergy is scattered around throughout the process like confetti.

In these situations, this thing of synergy is used as though the guys are sitting around fitting a jigsaw puzzle. "This organization has strong engineering; that one has a great reputation for after-sales service. This one has a strong marketing presence in the North; that one is the tops in the South." and, thus, with all these 'synergies' fitted properly in, there is the assumption that the assemblage will work as a harmonious whole and yield returns in excess of the sum of their individual returns. So there - first putting together a 'whole'; then 'harmony' and then the 'whole being greater than the sum of the parts'. What more can you want from synergy?

The problem, as usual, is, as the poet says, that every prospect pleases and only man is vile. In other words, it is rather like the arranged marriage in India. All the synergy exercise is done to check the fit of the two families and it is expected that the two people getting married to each other will live harmoniously together. The failure of synergy exercises is always the people who have to make it work, of course, and never the fault of the people who decided on the synergies. (The poor chaps do not know that the one great talent given to humans is the ability to pull against each other, especially when they are in different groups)

AND, as in arranged marriages, the result is, more often than not, a total lack of synergy. At least in arranged marriages, the whole ends up, more often than not, greater than the sum of the parts in the strictly numerical sense, if THAT is any consolation. (It is, indeed, to the families. The individuals involved, though, may not share that idea.)

In Organizations, too, the whole will certainly be different from the sum of the parts, if there IS a whole for long enough to make an assessment. If THAT is any consolation!

20 comments:

  1. Do you think management is more than common sense?

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    1. You miss the point, Indu :) Management is giving 'fundu' names to common-sense concepts AND , then, thinking that because you know the name you have mastered the concept :)

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    2. Actually i should have said,i think it is little more than common sense.After all the old grand dads of corporate houses like Dhirubhai Tata et all,did very well without a formal indoctrination in management.
      But then,perhaps the changing times require it.
      These days i am learning it from you and Dilbert :)

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    3. Hahaha!

      Actually, though, it helps to learn management, Indu! The education is but a means of learning from the experience of the past. The problem I find is only in the fact that quite a few feel that the jargon is more important than the concept :)

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  2. I don't understand Management or even the fancy words they bring along.. Sometimes I don't really get what the management does as well...Ahh well maybe I don't know anything, there is a strong possibility of that as well :)

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    1. I know ALL the reasons why management is needed, Naba! Only thing is I find most of them quite content to talking fancy words about it :)

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  3. Some of these words and their actual meaning would always remain a mystery for a mildly educated person like me. All I can say is that you put a lot of thoughts and logic into your posts. If I copy a little bit from any of the paragraphs, I can use them on my blog for the next 6-7 months.

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    1. THAT's a huge compliment, Debajyoti :) Though it is probably more kind than true :)

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  4. Oh yeah that's one word they absolutely love ...it makes it sound like ' we have arrived...now watch the magic unfold ' :)

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  5. Some years ago I became familiar with a term "synergic inquiry". As someone teaching (and therefore assuming to know a thing or two about) research methods courses I was quite intrigued by it. I read a few things about it, and thought that much of the wisdom in which this 'new' approach to inquiry is grounded is rather quite timeless wisdom from various wisdom traditions. The point is that often the same old truths are being repackaged and sold again and again in new bottles with fancy sounding terminologies. Maybe the same thing has happened in the field of Management too! I am actually quite certain that it has :) And I say this without knowing M of Management. But having experienced the best of the so-called 'arranged marriage' I can say this with almost-full certainty that what matters is not the jargon of 'family-arranged' or 'self-arranged' marriage but how one understands and over time renews one's understanding of the idea of marriage and relationship itself :)

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    1. Quite right and quite true, Beloo! The point I was making here is two-fold - 1. That people concentrate on the words without understanding the idea and 2. that people forget, both in arranged marriages and management, that the most important thing in making things work in synergy is to check the synergies between the people concerned, failing which you are leaving the MOST important thing to chance.

      By the way, if you check the following link, you will know my views on "Arranged Marriage" and "Love marriage"

      http://jambudweepam.blogspot.in/2012/08/agony-aunt.html

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  6. That it is so true. And the HR people are the worst of the lot when it comes to jargon.

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    1. Easier to parody too - the HR jargon :) The rest requires too much of theory to understand :)

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  7. Truly! The way words are used! They convey similar meanings, but sound fancy :)

    You'll perhaps enjoy to read the following Five Sentence Fiction I had written on the topic:
    http://www.anitaexplorer.com/2014/12/fancy-trust.html

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  8. I see that you are establishing synergies with your readers :) That pun on production,marketing and finance guys are absolutely a genius !! Left leg slippers.. LOL!

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    1. And, here I was, thinking that my synergy with my readers was going the same way as synergy in a Merger - or was that what you meant? :)

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  9. Ultimately for synergy and synchronization to work out common sense and understanding of situation r required, when friction develop synchronization takes time. Management in right way is maturity and handling issues as issue based ones.


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    1. It is mainly using the concepts and not merely knowing the right words, which is the purpose of these posts :)

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