Monday, September 21, 2015



It was my first day at IIM-Bangalore and the first thing that the Prof, who was giving the orientation lecture, wrote on the Board was this. To clarify, this was in 1988 and blackboards were still in use, even in the IIMs. AND, yes, because it WAS still the eighties, one could sort of work around a conversation about even the weather to how you are now a student at IIM, with the audience only smiling indulgently, as they would when they heard anyone being proud of any achievement (like getting a story published, say). It helped, I suppose, that the salaries of IIM guys were still somewhere around comparable levels and, thus, this simple pride did not get any connotations of someone boasting of being royalty.

"Management means to Manage Men and T(ime)"

I stiffened with fear. Did I hear that right? Managing Men and Time? (Ah! To clarify again, technology had not yet laid its claim on that 'T' of management, nor indeed had information technology usurped and ousted all other contenders to the word 'technology') Managing men? A trickle of sweat ran down my spine and my mouth went dry. Ever seen a wee lamb stray into a den of lions. The poor thing wants just to run away, bleating pathetically, but is frozen in fear with mouth too dry to even utter the smallest 'baa'. THAT was how I felt. Managing men? What had I got myself into?

If ever there was an inherently unmanageable, outright cussed species it must be Homo Sapiens. God must have had an off-day when He created mankind. And, here I was, in this institution which wanted to make me a manager of men? Eeeps! I had applied and joined the place only because of what I would get as a salary once I had passed out. I should have spared a thought to what I would have to do to earn that salary. (Yeah, I know, it has always vexed me that people thought that I needed to actually DO something to earn a salary, but this is not a post about that).

Imagine a bus careening down the mountainside about to fall off the click into the ravine below, because the driver has had a heart attack. Imagine a busload of passengers, screaming in fear and imagine that I am to manage these people (I know! It will really STRETCH your imagination to do it but TRY, will you?) into working together at stopping the bus before we flew into the wide blue yonder.

"You always pick on me to do the heavy lifting. Why should I shift the driver? Why not your blue-eyed boy there?"

"I think that we should form a committee to determine how this driver was allowed to drive today. There is something seriously wrong with the procedure to check on the fitness of drivers."

"Do you really think that, even if the driver is shifted, the brakes will work? Who knows what is the condition of the bus, when the travel agency has not even checked on the condition of the driver?"

"I really think that these winding roads are a hazard. The government should never permit winding roads in such terrain and put people in danger. This NDA government..."

"This road was put up in the UPA..."

"Say, how do you have a straight road on a mountain?"

"Do not digress from the point. Why did the NDA government not set it right? AAP is...."

And, soon, it would evolve into a highly spiritual discussion of whether at all there is a mountain, or a road or a bus or what we could call 'We'. THAT last, of course, would prove right - for soon, there would be no 'We'!

Exaggeration? Perhaps. But when death or disaster is much less imminent - say a day later, for example - what are the odds of this happening? You have any doubts about it, you can always take recourse to Donald Trump and his wisdom on climate change.

So, that was managing men for me. (You say that I am inept at managing men and that is why I say all this? What, then, do you think I was trying to establish all this while?)

As for managing Time, I had always thought that it got along pretty well without my supervision. I mean the seconds ticked and the minutes tocked whether or not I had an eagle eye on the clock. So, what's the big deal about managing Time? You go your way and Time goes its way without either interfering with the other.

Soon, though, I realized that the problem was NOT Time. The problem was all about those who tried to manage YOUR time. As in, people who wanted you to do this; others who wanted you to do that; and yet others who wanted you to do the third thing. Effectively, Manage men meant that you had to ensure that you made it a problem for them to manage THEIR time and managing Time meant that you had to manage the people who were trying to manage what you did with YOUR time. Of course, we are all very good at giving names to things and, so, the former is called 'leadership' and the latter is called 'work-life balance'. (And THAT proves my point. THAT phrase effectively says that work is NOT life, so the time you take out for working is the time you have not lived!)

It was all too confusing and scaring for me. And, then, a happy thought struck me. The trick was to stay where I was more the managed than the manager. Then, ALL I had to be was what Homo Sapiens was programmed to be - unmanageable.


  1. Haha,you hit the right note to end this piece.We are all unmanageable.Who is managing us???????????

    1. No-one, though a lot of people have the illusion of doing so :)

  2. Suresh, I am running out of adjectives. I will content myself by saying that you combine wit with a lot of commonsense in your inimitable way in your work. Lots of home truths as well. Brought back some nostalgia as I too belong to those Blackboard days, didn't really like them at the time but now I and my friends consider them the happiest days of our lives. Thanks again for the smiles, a brilliant way to start the morning.

  3. nice post!...last para sums it all..enjoyed reading :-)

  4. Blackboards were still there in 2008 or were they white boards? Don't remember clearly. But definitely not power point. Don't know about now.

    Manage time and men - that is all we do. Especially managing people who don't report to you. I sometimes get so frustrated that I want to throw the people on the ground and rain them with kicks till they agree like Gounder Mani does to Senthil in Tamil movies.And time? I go about through the tasks like a zombie with no end in sight.

    1. Hahaha - I knew I could not manage either, so I gave up :)

  5. So true, we are programmed to be unmanageable! Such a refreshing read on a Monday. :)

  6. Ha ha:) Wonderful, Suresh!
    The bus ka example is a classical one on managing men:) so funny, and yet so true too:):)