Friday, September 5, 2008

An eye opener to managerial dilemmas

Dr S.Narayanan, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister addressed the students of DoMS, IIT-M under the banner of the MIST club. He has nearly four decades of public service in development administration in the state and central governments, starting in 1965. He was responsible for the implementation of economic policies of over 30 ministries including Finance, Commerce and Industry, Petroleum, Agriculture, Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, and Power.

Dr.Narayanan gave an insight into practical situations where managers are at crossroads. These problems are more complex, since the opportunity cost involved is very high. He chose an open ended format, where he cited real life instances and the decisions taken, then. He left it to the audience to take their own stand with respect to the decision.

He started out by giving the example of the recent hit book ‘Zoom’, where the author proves that perspectives change when the window of perception changes. He quoted a few examples:

  • How illiteracy was the opportunity cost for having chosen to improve tertiary education. India is a knowledge, service based economy now, thanks to the skill set of the people. But it was achieved at the cost of primary education.

  • The UTI-64 case, where the government had to intervene and pay compensation for scores of people at the cost of drought measures. But that brought about many positive trends in the economy that included people started to trust mutual funds.

  • The lack of diesel supplies in the local market even though oil exports are high in our country, due a decision taken long ago – to allow private players to export refined diesel. Now, oil export forms a major part of our GDP.

Dr.Narayanan commented that “One will always have to take ethical decisions. And the ethics line keeps getting pushed further in life.” He defined an ethical decision in a very beautiful manner – “One should be able to tell one’s mother, about the decisions taken. Because, she is a person whom we won’t lie to!" He said, "Take decisions in such a way you feel happy when you look at the mirror everyday.”

“Life is full of dilemmas. It confronts you in personal and corporate life. In a corporate setup, you are responsible for what the corporate (or government) represents. And what it achieves by the decision.”

“NRN and Tata are respected for the ethics that the corporation holds. So, choose your stand. ”
He chose to end the session there, for the audience to ponder over what sort of dilemmas responsibilities bring in, and why it is important for one to be ethical.


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