Thursday, January 27, 2005

You must be nuts!

Rewind to AD 2000.

The scene: Semester exams were right in the corner. The practical part of the exams had just got over, and the general mood we budding engineering graduates had could best be described as ‘frenzy’.

Most of us were thinking that we had scraped through the practical exams. In engineering, according to my experience, failing in a practical exam is tougher than passing. You must’ve really been dumb, or must’ve refused to even stand when the faculty’s order was to jump. But theory exams were a slightly different matter. You got to read atleast 4 out of the 8 chapters in every subject to manage to scrape through. By scrape through, I really mean getting a first class with distinction, since one could probably set records by getting a score of sub 70% in a college like that of mine. Since the task – reading half of the chapters that we’ve never cared to visit before – was daunting, my friends were fretting over and over in the study holidays. But I, and a couple of able bodied souls, was never worried. My only goal was to complete a couple of Frederick Forsyth books before the study holidays got over.

If you had thought I was somewhere in the bottom of the class, you couldn’t have been more mistaken. Somehow, I had mastered the art of last minute reading. I knew the knack of getting an 80+ score just with a 6 or 7 hrs read before the exam. Either the system was stupid enough to award me that many marks with minimum effort, or I was a genius in last minute scoring. I personally doubt the former. Some of my friends said “You must be nuts to do that”. They weren't entirely wrong.

Fast-forward to AD 2004.

One of the most frequent arguments amongst we B-schoolers is over what we gain out of this 2 year long slogging. I always am a fervent believer that we gain a lot about the ground level working of almost all the departments of management. Some of my friends believe that most of what we read is crap and impractical. Cynical as they are, not many doubt one thing: that we are asked to play around with what could be one of the most important facets of management – time management. Read between the lines, and you’ll find that I’m not saying that we learn to manage time properly. I’m just saying that the very many things that happen round the clock teach us to respect priorities. I must admit here that I’m really a fledgling when it comes to managing time. I just can’t seem to get my priorities right, even after making proper schedules for entire weeks. Time just vanishes away, somewhere into the open.

When I sit and think that our classes get over at 1 pm in the afternoon and all I got to do was to read for the next days’ classes, read some newspapers, browse, eat, sleep, maybe workout in gym, play some games, and I’ve got till 9 am the next day to do all that, it looks like a cinch. But it isn’t. I guess most of we B-schoolers aren’t entirely successful in this area – getting priorities right. Things just fall apart and we end up postponing things to the last microsecond. These days, I don’t hear someone saying “You must be nuts to do this in the last minute”, probably because the world I live in works that way. Activities like completing assignments in the nick of time, polishing projects in the dire end, jamming notes just before an afternoon quiz etc seem to be so imbibed in us that I almost am fearing that we might end up doing the same thing in an organization after graduation.

So, what’s the solution? I guess it lies in proper planning. While we learn all sorts of financial, marketing and organizational planning, we are at the risk of losing one very important thing – planning activities. I just hope that my realizing and reflecting doesn’t stop here.


At Friday, January 28, 2005 1:49:00 AM, Blogger Chandoo said...

ever heard the terms important and urgent. ardent lovers of time management speak about a model involving these 2 words alot. What they suggest is a complicated model of what we do here.

you break up all your tasks_to_be_done into urgent_important, urgent_nonimporatant, nonurgent_important, nonurgent_nonimportant. Then you form a quadratic system with urgency on one axis and importance in another axis. Finally you always do only things in urgent_important quadrant. As other things move in to Q1 you will accomodate them too.

Now, tell me, my dear, what are we doing here???

At Friday, January 28, 2005 1:59:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

Tell you what: its an extremely easy thing to say all this, put words into models. We used to follow a system in Oracle where mails used to be sent with priorities. But the problem is not in *identification* of priorities. It's in allocating proper amouont of time to them, with little or no digression. Now tell me, do we *practise* such a thing?

At Friday, January 28, 2005 11:36:00 AM, Blogger Chandoo said...

hehe... now you got it. All this models are just what they are. Whatever we are doing here is a perfect example of the model i said. It is just that you never know that you are following it.

You said we watch hell lot of movies, waste time chatting, sleeping. But dude... arent they important for us? Tell me one reading that you missed because you dont have time. Tell me one submission you chucked just because you were sleeping... Naah.. you cant. That is because our system of priorities and allocation is near to perfection :P

At Friday, January 28, 2005 1:36:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Again, you didn't get me the way I wanted you to. I missed a LOT of readings - both for quizzes and for classes - not because of lack of time, but improper allocatioon of time. It's one thing if this proper is just mine, but then, most of the batch suffers from this. Don't u think retrospection has the chance of enlightening us?

At Friday, January 28, 2005 2:32:00 PM, Blogger Chandoo said...

hmm... back to square one..

"Ever heard the terms importance and urgency?"

I guess the missed readings show the importance we give to them. Look at the time you spent on MIS project or OM Cases. Tells stories about the importance you assign to these courses.

At Saturday, January 29, 2005 6:56:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Well during the first month I used to be really hard pressed for time. Assignments used to be done in time for all subjects. But as time passed by.. usual habits caught up. Important (read...where you cud get an F..) Profs. got attention while the rest were relegated to last min work. Some how time appeared from nowhere to lauch a campus radio on IP, screening movies in classrooms and what not! Most so calles intellectual types also came down to their true selves and life is not much diff. from engg. days... Though not that bindaas.. But also nowhere near what some IIM grads tell tales about.. awesome academic workload and all..

At Saturday, January 29, 2005 7:12:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Hmmm. SImilar stories in lot of Bschools. But things here are pretty tight - probably since these tend to imitate IIMA all the time! We are left with truckloads of work everyday. I guess its time to start having a good feeling abt all this!

At Tuesday, February 01, 2005 4:51:00 PM, Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Hmmm....interesting. But frankly, while you are right about the workload being immense and all that, I totally disagree with you about learning about the ground-level working of the departments of management.

I have worked 2 years before my MBA, and without wanting to be offensive, I'd say that being in a Marketing function gave me more insights than any Kotler can. Several times I laugh at the absolute BS contained in it. As far as Fin is concerned, ask any Fin chaps (in industry) how much they use the BS we are loaded with. There is s/w nowadays for Accounting!!! As for HR and Ops, do I even need to go into them?????

At Friday, February 04, 2005 2:41:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

Well, the problem is with we B-schoolers too. We tend to take the BS and think that thats all we get. I too worked for coupla years, and I still believe we learn quite a lot in a B-school. I know I have about 50% of B-schoolers disagreeing with me, but what did we personally know abt "Which organizatioon strucutre was bettter for what", "What is the ideal queue length" OM, What is really the objective of a firm (Fin), and where to invest for the given money?

Kotler is BS, yes, but not everything is. Maybe I was bad before coming here, but I do see a lot of good learnings from B-schools - and this aint for the sake of argument! :)

At Friday, February 04, 2005 9:40:00 AM, Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Structure. Great theory....but to very honest, I have seen 2 organizations in the same business who are equally successful with diametrically opposite structures, neither of which the Org Struc theory would "approve" of. How do I justify this?

As for investment, err....Warren Buffet is every man's idol in that field......I dunno how much Fin he was taught....and hey, research has shown that the returns you get on a randomly selected portfolio is just the same as that picked by investment "gurus", Fin "Gods". How do you justify these things, specially the last bit?

At Friday, February 04, 2005 2:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not at all disputing the fact that a deep practical experience if far more insightful than an academic course. Your quote than an experience in Fin sector teaches more than a regular course is true too. But my point is: our courses are structured to learn the basics of almost all of the important facets of management. I don't see a single field or organization that teaches you the entire gamut of things. We might work and know momre in a field - but we might be completely be unaware about a lot of things in other fields. We don't know which patch is green.

And countering your point, I remember the last class in organizaational theory when our prof highlighted a company with no structure, and still one of the best in business. But then, our theory teaches about rules, more than exceptions. Such outliers just can't be taught about in our timeframe.

Anyway, will probably post a blog on this coz I seem to be at loggerheads with half of the b-schoolers. :)

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