Monday, April 11, 2011

M. Chandrasekaran
It was one of those Eureka moments that occurs in all our lives. Luckily for me, I am not Archimedes and I was not in the bathtub when this happened, thus saving me much grief!

I am talking about the sudden revelation that came to me that many of the mathematical definitions and operators are clearly of some relevance in an organisation context as well. This discovery, while it may be construed by many as manifestly trivial in its impact on organisations, has given me great joy and is thus important enough to merit this exposition!

Addition: A simple operator that should yield accretive results is transmuted into a Holy Grail called synergy. In that exalted state, 2 plus 2 is supposed to yield 22. More often than not, in defiance of basic mathematical principles, the result is zero.

Subtraction: A beloved operation by which expenses are supposed to come down because of reduction of activities. In reality, much observed in the breach by managers who move around and hide their resources under different headings so that we have an interesting outcome where fat is redistributed and the body mass seldom comes down.

Multiplication: A powerful operator that is supposed to, well, multiply the impact of any action. Certainly happens when two powerful managers fight over issues where they suspect breach of their territory and ensure that simple problems become major headaches for all concerned.

Division: When small numbers of managers sow dissension in a large group and create divisiveness and acrimony. This state of affairs then helps the small group to comfortably lord it over the much bigger group.

Fibonacci Series: A linear version of Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses, where opinions gather momentum and acceptance in increasing number depending upon the seniority of those who start the chain. Very senior people clearly can start their own Fibonacci series, which are most likely to gather a large number of adherents quickly; the rights and wrongs of the series are not to be judged by mere mortals in the system.

Point: A small dot that is the beginning of any diagram and which someone facetiously defined as “a circle with a radius of zero”! In the ideal world, the outcome of any corporate discussion must be to establish a point. In the real world, this is normally visible in corporate discussions by its absence — thus the phrase “pointless discussion.”

Parallel Lines: Defined as lines that meet at infinity. Clearly represents the state of things when senior folk agree to disagree on important issues. Given the efficacy of the trickle-down effect, we can expect many such parallel lines at all levels of the hierarchy. The CEO is the person mandated to somehow get all these parallel lines to meet before infinity, in defiance of the laws of mathematics.

Right angle: An angle that encompasses 90 degrees and is part of a family that also comprises acute and obtuse angles. In an organisational context, this is the only politically correct angle when dealing with bosses; the other angles are clearly just wrong angles.

Straight line: Defined as the shortest distance between two points. Anathema to most professionals who believe that a Brownian movement between two points is the safest option given the landmines liberally strewn on straight and narrow organisational pathways.

Concentric circles: Circles that are nested one inside the other and which share the same centre point. In essence, areas which encompass one another and which are animated by a set of core beliefs or purposes. The most prevalent and visible corporate structures tend to resemble unconnected cylinders called silos. These structures assiduously promote localised maximisation of output and help stroke egos.

Minimum, maximum and average: The Bell Curve postulates that about 80 per cent of the people fall in the middle range with the leading and tail ends contributing the other 20 per cent. In the pragmatic world inhabited by corporate denizens, this translates to a situation where the maximum number of people will try and do a minimum amount of work with average levels of productivity.

Proportionality: The Law of Inverse Proportionality states that “wisdom lies in recognising and accepting that compensatory benefits vary in inverse proportion to the level of professional inputs.”

Squares and circles: Clearly the process by which organisations scientifically work out job fitments that invariably end up trying to get round pegs into square holes or the other way round.

Ellipse: A geometrical figure with two foci. Organisationally, a two-headed beast called matrix reporting, which leads to elliptical statements from all concerned and endless confusion.

Now that I have stirred up another hornet's nest, it is time to say sayonara! However, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I will be back.”

Point, a small dot that is the beginning of any diagram and which someone facetiously defined as ‘a circle with a radius of zero'!

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 11, 2011; The writer is corporate advisor to the Manipal Education and Medical Group. He can be reached at: