Why I missed to study Science ?

Science is fascinating. And so should be studying science.

How much I missed it.

Had I studied science full time, I would also be fascinating (I think).

Had I done that, I need not to have been missing my beautiful evenings in Bank – smiling at people who do not smile back, talking with people who do not respond, facilitating carrying out of micro tasks for the customers by the staff members who are trained to think at micro levels only, carrying out the orders of superiors who think at macro level only involving tasks that are essentially at the micro level.

And losing a beautiful life – that is a life that could have been beautiful — in toiling between the macros and micros of a business organization, accustomed to frequently feeling proud at achievements in the career that have no meaning whatsoever in outer life – that is Real Life.

Please do not decide I did not like a service industry like banking – where people are the input, people are the machine and a satisfied people are the outcome. I thoroughly enjoyed being with people and serving people who are customers.

I studied Personnel Management and Industrial Relations for my major in M Com. Management is my most favourite subject of knowledge.

In my post-graduate college, the Commerce Department Library had more than 25000 books of which not less than 10000 were about Management in all its branches – Process Management, Project Management, Personnel Management, Marketing Management, Leadership Management, Industrial Psychological Management, Quality Management.

But any aspiring manager interested in any branch of management was made to have a basic understanding with human management, human interaction, human behavior at work and the like, in addition to his core reading.

In our college we were told (in 1975-76) that at that time, western post graduates in any discipline, even law, medicine, engineering, science were willingly learning the management principles – especially those dealing with people management.

But what is the real picture in our own country and in our own organizations ?

All of management theory and management processes give zero results when we lack the people perspective in organizations. In our public sector organizations and in most of private sector organizations, few people study about the management science. And fewer believe in that science. And still fewer decide to practice it. Though many companies do have Personnel Department, or better Personnel Relations Department, or HRM Department or still better HRD- Human Relations Department, practice of HRD principles is a tall task rarely does anyone attempt. All they do mostly is about Industrial Relations Law and Labour Law and never any management theory.

In our companies, walls are covered with book shelves storing valuable collection of valuable management books. Mostly they belong there only – on the shelves.

Rarely on the tables or cars of any executives running the show.

We rarely ever feel we need a knowledge of this type.

Did you not read in the last few months an article in the newspapers about the mediocre managing the country in all walks of life and the furore it created. Not many would have been interested in reading that piece.

Why?

Because, our economic situation does not allow us to become experts.

And to succeed here, you need not be an expert in your field. Sometimes it spoils the atmosphere. Your presence may not be liked by your peers, if not superiors.

We study Civil Engineering to get a job in an IT company;
We study Chemical Engineering to get into an IT company;
We study Automobile Engineering to get into an IT company;
We pursue science to get MSc would never mind forgetting all that and accept a plush job from an IT company.
We pursue Computer Engineering to get into a software company.

It was like that in my time also – that is forty years ago.

BA, BSc, BCom, BE, ACA, AICWA, BSc-Agri, all entered banking career when the sudden political action by Indira Gandhi made public sector banking the fastest developing. It is not a bad decision – I am not commenting on bank nationalization – that is a different topic for full-scale discussions. I dabbled in it in my bachelor course. I got first prize for my on-the spot essay about the ills of public sector in Indian economy. College professors thought that was a good writing showing maturity of thinking in a college student.

But the One that produced me – I mean God – knew better.

God knew what professors did not know – that my knowledge about the ills of public sector are incomplete – I had to rely on resources in print which are essentially from others and blessed me with an opportunity to do research on my pet subject – that is, ills of public sector in India – with first-hand experience – by creating circumstances enough to force me get employed in a public sector company.

I am grateful to my employer – the public sector bank. It gave me my food and gave me my life. It gave me lot of opportunities to derive happiness out of serving people – of all types and all economic statuses – in all of the possible terrain – rural, semi-urban, urban, and metropolitan. And I drew immense happiness from meeting with people, working with people and serving the people.

But did I arrive at any level of professional satisfaction? – I still sincerely doubt it.

The public and the newspapers are gracious enough to call anybody in a successful organization as a professional – for example –executives in a public sector bank are treated as banking professionals?

My friends may ask what is wrong with it. If we are able to be trusted with authority and given responsibility and we achieve targets, are we not experts in our profession and should we not be called banking professionals.

If we take it to the extreme, my friends may say that what they studied in a college never mattered as long as what they did on the job brought results. Never mind the strains of achieving it. They say that I never had time to read, or even if I have read, never had time and space to put into practice what I have learnt.

I can not always believe in my team even though your Personnel Management theory insists so. I can not always think of my peers and subordinates or their welfare. I can devote my attention to my career growth only – I can never mind whether I leave my staff in a dejected mood or in a quandary. You say that these are all people problems and there are solutions that will succeed in making my subordinates feel how the organizational goals are important. I do not have patience. Even if I have patience, my organization does not have patience. It shifts me out everytime I become an expert at something at a branch or at a specialist department.

But it is my country and it is my country’s thinking. In my country an Engineer can be a law minister. A school drop out could become the education minister. Ex-criminals can run education institutions in my country. If a political aspirant has committed a crime – a killing or a rape or a defalcation of public money or a corruption crime and is facing the law – he never worries about it. He knows that conviction and sentence within a four-walled jail for a long term will take a long time. And he knows that he can use the available time – that is the long time until he goes to jail – by becoming a minister and changing his fate.

Teachers who teach students very sincerely are not respected. Students have no serious time to study sincerely. Their parents want them to become all within 18 years – a singer, a dancer, a guitarist, a swimmer, a cricketer – and thus have no time to study textbooks. They can always have a textbook online. With their compressed day, all they could afford to concentrate on is the Notes on the subject – that is the Question- Answer Books.

Now there are more number of teachers who are experts in preparing Question-Answer notes than the actual number of teachers who can write meaningful textbooks that are a foundation of knowledge.

In well-to-do homes full of successful educated families, you find a number of tea-table tabloid books and pictorial books worth thousands of rupees. Their children or they themselves rarely refer to any textbooks. They have the textbooks but rarely have time to browse.

Books are required to pass an exam. That’s all. PERIOD.
Degrees are a passport to a job. That’s all. PERIOD.

There is no need for books any more beyond the exams. See the old books stalls in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkotta, Bangalore and other metros. You can find books of their last class deposited by students, deposited at a price. Disposing books immediately after passing an exam makes you economically richer – at least by an additional icecream – and wiser with the knowledge that knowledge is not a required commodity.

And this is how we are developing a mediocre community. A student winning first mark in literature is not able to write a précis of a long extract in print, is not able to produce a meaningful two pages of writing.

We become adults and get employed and our mindset never changes. We stock our offices with books which we never read.

Even if we read management books, we never believe in them. We believe in reading the management – that is reading our superiors and never our team.

And we have successfully created public sector organizations with a queer sense of responsibility and a strange set of aspirations. When we were young employees, whatever level we joined at, we wanted to get promoted to higher positions and continuously at that, taking organizational goals as our personal goals and achieving them. So there was clamour for promotions.

Now in my organization – that is the organization I served for more than 38 years – you have to cast a wide net to catch young people willing to accept promotions. Now we have more probationers in clerical and officer cadres who quit the organization before confirmation of their job. We have lot of clerical staff who never want promotions. People in junior management now want to retire as junior management person.

So when the supply becomes restricted dues to the staff attitude, management has no other alternative except to promote people who are available for promotions. Like what the management expert remarked, each one gets promoted to a position of his inefficiency . – That is if he stays in that position without promotion, that means that he has reached his level of inefficiency. The irony of this is that he will certainly reach that level of his inefficiency with further one or two or more promotions. Even if no other country follows that queer management dictum of reaching one’s own level of inefficiency, that expert can be happy in his graves about at least our country proving his theory right.

I know this brooding is a waste.

Especially at this age.

At age beyond 60.

Now there is no boss sitting on the top and directing what to do, what to achieve, how to think, what to ask and what not to ask, etc.

So now I enjoy reading science. – it is a start.
——————————- N Ganapathy Subramanian

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