“Using officers’ collective wisdom”- 23 December 2014.

The new CEO landed straight in trouble when he joined the company after having served in various corporate houses for over 25 years. The Board of Directors had cautioned him about the possible difficulties he might face once he took over from his predecessor who was retiring after 30 years in the saddle. He was a tired man and could not handle the change that was sweeping across the Indian corporate sector. By the time he opted to step down, on his own, much time had been lost and the company had got mired in various issues of governance and human resource management. But Sudhakar, the new man in, was all eager to tackle the situation. He only smiled at the Directors’ word of caution, and said, “Sirs, I have a solution in mind and I will try it out. I feel, there is a good chance of success”.

These words did not actually sound wise to the members of the Board. They were skeptical but had no alternative to allowing the new man to make his decisions. So, on the very first day of Sudhakar’s innings, he invited 2-3 senior officers for tea. And then he continued with that practice of choosing any 2-3 officers in the company for a chat over tea every afternoon.
That was the beginning of the application of solution which Sudhakar had in mind. All he wished to do was to explore if he could put to good use the leadership experience and skill of the officers collectively to tackle the company’s multiple problems. He knew that he was taking a calculated risk, but felt that it was worth the trouble.
In a few days, what emerged before Sudhakar was a plausible model that he could use to form an association of officers under the management’s patronage without declaring it in those many words. The officer-cadre was delighted that the new CEO would be happy to bless an officers’ association. Thus came up the new organisation whose purpose was to discuss ways and means to improve productivity and enhance the quality of atmosphere at the workplace.
The workers’ unions, which were as many as five, thanks to the politically fraught atmosphere in the company, were highly skeptical, and even tried to propagate that the new officers’ association was another union aimed to disturb the functioning of the five unions.
However, Sudhakar was unfazed and allowed the officers’ association to act as a company think-tank. The trick worked. For, in a few weeks, the officers came up with many creative and concrete ideas about how to improve things in the trouble-torn company. Their collective experience was Sudhakar’s strength, and he used it to the hilt.
To one reporter who went to interview him, Sudhakar said, “I am blessed to have an officer-cadre whose collective experience in leadership positions had never been used by the management. But that is what I have done. I have urged the officers’ to act as think-tank as well as operational leaders. They loved the idea and are now engaging themselves in the creative pursuit of offering to the workforce effective leadership at all levels. I don’t mind if some people criticise this idea. But in my company, and for me, it has worked wonders”.
This was how Sudhakar highlighted his success. In fact, the idea is not exactly new and countless companies use the tool effectively. Yet, Indian corporations do not actually make a good use of the collective wisdom of the officer-cadre. If this is done effectively, the overall atmosphere in the Indian corporate sector would improve tremendously.


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