Sunday, January 20, 2013

Music as an Inspiration to Management

Whenever I go to Vijayawada, a city in Andhra Pradesh, I go to a restaurant in Hotel Ilapuram. I am pleasantly surprised each time I visit the restaurant that it still plays the Telugu songs that were a rage in the 1960s and 1970s. It is surprising because, in today’s musical cacophony, the simple melodies of the past seem to have been completely washed away. In Chennai itself, Hotel Palmgrove consistently plays the musical melodies of the 1970s in its restaurant. Many FM radio channels still give a pride of place to old melodies. Even more surprisingly, in most child singer music reality shows, old songs come to the fore as benchmark tests of singing capabilities. If the Indian musical wealth, classical folk and cinematic, is passed through generations seamlessly, in spite of the continual assaults of multiple external musical trends, two factors are perhaps at the core.

The innate ability of a person to appreciate and absorb music is significantly cultural. In this, the Indian music which is based on Saptaswaras (Seven Notes of Music) is unique. Sage Bharata defines music as the confluence or combination of Swara, Thala and Pada. Indian music is a unique confluence of all the human senses. This has led to the enduring appeal of the Indian music across generations. Secondly, musical Kacheris and Sabhas (congregations) have been the backbone of community participation in the eclectic experience of Indian music. With the advent of the radio and later the television and various other audio-video musical streaming devices, music has evolved beyond generations.  With the ability of the modern telecommunication and computer systems to upload, download, transmit and store trillions of bytes of music, possibly there would be no chance to lose even one bit of music to the annals of history anymore.  
Music and management     

In life, only some are gifted to be a musician, that too as a profession or as a complete avocation or a way of life. Some are gifted to be actors, some directors and some painters. However, most are borne and brought up to seek a job or a career, and within that most want to be managers. Management, like music, is passed through generations of organizations through the people and texts. Many executives and managers would see music as a hobby or as a pursuit of fine art but musicians rarely fancy having management as their hobby or as a pursuit of organized life (successful musicians may have managers though!). Music is said to soothe frayed nerves, and is in fact credited with an ability to cure certain diseases. On the other hand, management despite its objectives of planned execution more often than not frays tempers rather than cools them. But, how are music and management which apparently have nothing in common are linked or linkable to each other by any stretch of imagination?

The reasons are a few. Both music and management are centrally dependent on the person delivering (music as a product or management as an outcome). Both the musician and manager are trained in a set of rules and both mellow with age and experience. Both of them perform to please others and also to actualize themselves. Both can be rendered solo or as an orchestra/team. Both have moved from physical, event based performance to virtual, globally networked performance. Both need continuous training and development to be contemporary and competitive. Unlike many other activities, both can be ingrained and integrated in everyone’s life in every wakeful moment. This is perhaps the unique feature of both the avocations. However, the most important reason why music and management need to be put in one common bucket is this: just as the fundamental foundation of all music in any form lies in seven basic notes, the fundamental foundation of all management lies in seven basic functions.
Saptaswaras and seven functions
Indian music has seven basic notes or swaras: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da and Ni. All music is derived from the ragas that are evolved out of the seven basic notes to different scales. Raga as defined by Sage Matanga is a combination of musical notes that gives delight, and a melody arrangement to project a definite mood, emotion or feeling. Management has similarly seven basic functions: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Budgeting and Reporting.  These functions help a manager manage resources to deliver outcomes. While several amplifications and supplementations have been brought forth by several scholars and practitioners over the years, these seven functions remain the core of management. There is one other commonalty as well. Just as the seven musical notes require a musician and a delivery by him and the team, the seven managerial functions also require a manager and an execution by him and the team.
Musical swaras, the sages say, are derived from nature, especially the expressions of certain birds and animals. Some are intrinsically melodious and mellifluous while some are stern and harsh. Managerial functions, on the other hand, are derived from the bare necessities of organized effort. They are expressions of one’s own faculties. Like the saptaswaras, some are soft and others hard. All the seven faculties are not endowed in equal measure in all persons but each faculty is certainly required to a certain degree for the overall management.  Interestingly, organizing and staffing, directing and coordinating, and budgeting and reporting come in pairs, albeit with different capabilities for each of the six factors. Planning is one function that has certain unique umbrella positioning as a base function. Without planning, management becomes suboptimal and none of the six other functions would have any framework to operate for, or towards.   
Infinite music, finite management
The similarities between music and management possibly end with the above in a normal reading. While music, though based on just seven notes, has infinite possibilities, management that is based on the seven basic functions gets classified into just a few operating styles. The reason is that unlike the swaras or notes, the basic functional capabilities are seen in a binary form to either exist or not exist. For example, a planner would be either good or bad but not acceptable in infinite shades as a swara would be. It is this fundamental difference that apparently limits management to have infinite styles. The basic styles that would emerge are governed by one core functionality of planning which also becomes the managerial core competence. A manager thus gets known for three essential combinations of core competencies: planner-organizer, planner-director,  and planner-controller. There could be several similar expressions of managerial styles but all of them can be simplified to these three. Corporations are usually content to have managerial teams that comprise individual teams reflecting the three combination styles.
 The above common premise may not be accepted by corporations and conglomerates aiming at competitive growth. Managerial limitations translate into organizational limitations. Every manager should avoid getting straight-jacketed into such simple stylistic formats. Management must be inspired by the infinite variations of music, and explore how the seven basic functionalities can be developed into multiple managerial styles. A planner’s competence is enhanced by understanding industrial and market scenarios, and constantly increasing the planning skill-sets. An organizer’s capabilities are enhanced by understanding business and operational needs under different conditions with an appreciation of what structures work well where and what talent needs to be in place when. A director’s abilities are best enhanced by understanding how the different dimensions of directing and coordinating could be uniquely appropriate in different conditions. From authoritative and dominative to facilitative and enabling approaches could be useful under different business conditions and with different types of teams. Often, it is thought that control has a negative connotation. On the other hand, if inclusive and considered plans are developed, budgeting and reporting would be enablers for planned and directed delivery. An ability to track macro and micro parameters with appropriate physical and financial parameters would be strengthening the control function in an organization.
Soulful, melodious
Music that is soulful, melodious and evocative based on appropriate combinations of raga, tala, pada, and in addition bhava (expression) has sustained itself over generations appealing to public at large. At the core has been the innovative and skillful use of saptaswaras by the musicians over generations to deliver such eternal music. Management is an integral part of life that is invisible and inadequately appreciated. Corporations recognize it as an essential facet of their organized growth with its seven core functions but are yet to find a paradigm that inspires multiple fine variants out of the seven core functions that could suit diverse business conditions and challenges.  Music and musicians offer a template for management and managers in this regard, as discussed in this blog post.  Just as the melodious old songs still play out soothing the guests in restaurants and public events, managerial folklore would inspire successive generations with their recounts of soulful achievements by managers who molded and remolded themselves continuously to meet diverse challenges of their own and their corporations’ evolution over time.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on January 20, 2013  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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